Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Infobox Political_party
party_name = Scottish Liberal Democrats
party_articletitle = Scottish Liberal Democrats
leader = Tavish Scott
foundation = 3 March 1988
ideology = Liberalism (social·market) Libertarianism Federalism Scottish unionism
position = Centre-left
international = Liberal International
european = European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
europarl = Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
colours = Gold
headquarters = 4 Clifton Terrace Edinburgh EH12 5DR
website = []

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are one of the three state parties [ [ "The party is led by Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicol Stephen MSP and is a state party within the Liberal Democrats"] ,, accessed 23 September 2006 ( [ cached] )] within the federal structure [ [ "Party Structure"] ,] of the British Liberal Democrats; the others being the English and the Welsh parties. The party is the [ successor] to the Scottish Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party in Scotland, following the merger of these parties in 1988.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have 16 of 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament, 12 of 59 Scottish seats in the UK Parliament, and one of seven Scottish seats in the European Parliament.

In terms of membership the party is the smallest of the 4 main political parties in Scotland, with approximately 4000 members, as of August 2008. [ [ Bust fears as ScotsLib Dems in the red to tune of £75,000] , The Scotsman, 20 August 2008]

Recent history

The party campaigned for the creation of a devolved Scottish Parliament as part of its wider policy of a federal United Kingdom. In the late 1980s and 1990s it and its representatives participated in the Scottish Constitutional Convention with the Scottish Labour Party, Scottish Green Party, trades unions and churches, and also campaigned for a "Yes-Yes" vote in the 1997 referendum.

In the first elections to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the party won 17 seats. Following this, the party formed a coalition government with the Scottish Labour Party in the Scottish Executive. The then party leader, Jim Wallace, became Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Minister for Justice. He also served as acting First Minister on three occasions, during the illness and then later death of the first First Minister Donald Dewar and following the resignation of his successor Henry McLeish. This partnership was renewed in 2003 and Wallace became Deputy First Minister and Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning. On 23 June 2005, Nicol Stephen MSP succeeded Wallace as party leader and took over his positions in the Executive until the 2007 elections.

Prior to the partnership government being formed in 1999, the UK had only limited experience of coalition government. The party's participation attracted criticism for involving compromises to its preferred policies, although several of its manifesto pledges were adopted as government policy or legislation. These included changes to the arrangements for student contributions to higher education costs (although whether that amounted to the claimed achievement of having abolished tuition fees was hotly contested), free personal care for the elderly and (during the second coalition government) changing the system of elections for Scottish local authorities to the single transferable vote, a long-standing Liberal Democrat policy.

In the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections, the party won one fewer seat than in the two previous Scottish elections: this was the first parliamentary election for 28 years in which the party's parliamentary strength in Scotland was reduced. This experience led to some criticism of the party's election strategy and its leader. Although it was arithmetically possible to form a majority coalition with the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Green Party, the party refused to participate in coalition negotiations because of a disagreement over the SNP's policy of a referendum on Scottish independence, and now sits as an opposition party in the Parliament.

On 2 July 2008 Nicol Stephen resigned as the party leader, and a leadership contest will be held. Until this is concluded, the deputy leader Michael Moore MP is serving as acting leader of the party.

Policy platform

The Scottish Party decides its policy on state matters independently from the Federal Party. State matters include not only currently devolved issues but also those reserved matters which the party considers should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, including broadcasting, energy, drugs and abortion [ [ "Scottish policy responsibilities include all devolved matters plus matters that we believe should be the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament."] ,] . The party also believes that the Scottish Parliament should exercise greater responsibility on fiscal matters. A party commission chaired by former Liberal Party leader and Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Sir David Steel set out the party's proposals on the constitutional issue. [ [ Report of the Steel Commission] ]

According to its constitution, the party believes in a "fair, free and open society ... in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity". It has traditionally argued for both positive and negative liberties, tolerance of social diversity, decentralisation of political authority, including proportional representation for public elections, internationalism and greater involvement in the European Union. In the 2007 elections it campaigned for reforms to public services and local taxation, and for more powers for the Scottish Parliament within a federal United Kingdom.

In December 2007, the party (along with Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives) supported the creation of a new Scottish Constitutional Commission, along similar lines to the earlier Scottish Constitutional Convention, to discuss further powers for the Scottish Parliament. The SNP Government has instead launched a "National Conversation" which includes the option of independence for Scotland.


In keeping with its basis as a federation of organisations, the Scottish party also consists of a number of local parties (which mostly follow the boundaries of the 73 Scottish Parliament constituencies), which are each distinct accounting units under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Local parties are predominantly responsible for the party's political campaigning and for selecting candidates for parliamentary and local authority elections. There are also eight regional parties (based on the boundaries of the eight Scottish Parliament electoral regions).


The conference is the highest decision-making body of the party on both policy and strategic issues. The day-to-day organisation of the party is the responsibility of the party's 34-member Executive Committee, chaired by Party Convener Audrey Findlay, and the 8 Office Bearers, including the leader Tavish Scott MSP, the deputy leader Michael Moore MP and the party President Malcolm Bruce MP. The development of party policy rests upon a distinct 14-member Policy Committee, chaired by Siobhan Mathers. The Chief Executive is Martin Hayman, and the party's headquarters are at 4 Clifton Terrace, Edinburgh.


The party holds two conferences per year: a three-day Spring Conference, last held in Aviemore in March 2008; and a one-day Autumn Conference, next due to be held in Edinburgh in October 2008.

Associated organisations

Associated organisations generally seek to influence the direction of the party on a specific issue or represent a section of the party membership. The party has five associated organisations:
*Association of Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners
*Liberal Democrats for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality (DELGA) (Scottish Board)
*Scottish Green Liberal Democrats
*Scottish Women Liberal Democrats
*Liberal Youth Scotland (LYS)

Leaders of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

1 - Resigned
2 - Interim: " See also Scottish Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2008"


See also

*Scottish Liberal Club
*Steel Commission
*Politics of Scotland
*Elections in Scotland

External links

* [ Official website]
* [ Party archives] at the National Library of Scotland
* [ ASPECT: Access to Scottish Parliamentary Election Candidate Materials] , University of Strathclyde
* [ Statements of accounts] , registered at The Electoral Commission

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