Scottish Lib Dem conference: your LDV reader

by Stephen Tall on November 2, 2009

On Saturday, LDV reported the news that the Scottish Lib Dems were uniting behind leader Tavish Scott’s opposition to the SNP referendum on independence, ahead of a special private conference for party members. And so it came to pass, as the BBC reports:

Tavish Scott has consistently opposed a referendum, but some divisions within the party have emerged and the issue was debated in a closed session at the party’s autumn conference in Dunfermline, Fife, on Saturday.

Senior Lib Dem MSP Ross Finnie, who has been asked to lead a consultation with members about the party’s stance, said the session had agreed a united position.

He said: “What was very clear – and maybe a little surprising – was that the conference was having no truck with the SNP’s referendum bill. That couldn’t have been clearer and therefore there is no change, and there is no wish for a change to the position the leader has been taking.

“There is however an issue about going forward beyond 2011, as to whether looking at the constitutional questions, there are issues around how you might frame, how you might produce a different question and different type of referendum.”

The BBC’s Brian Taylor offers an excellent analysis of the meaning behind the Scottish Lib Dems’ decision here:

Two outcomes [of the conference]. One, support for [Tavish Scott’s] position that the LibDems should oppose current SNP plans for a plebiscite. Two, the beast that is internal dissent within the LibDems has probably been sated for a while. …

… opposing a referendum is, politically, a very uncomfortable place to be. Hence “bring it on” from Wendy Alexander. Hence the LibDems closed doors discussion in Dunfermline. … [the party’s] position is much more nuanced than straightforward opposition to Mr Salmond’s Bill. Of that, they say it is at the wrong recessionary time – and with the wrong question (a mandate to negotiate rather than a blunt Yes or No to independence.)

At Dunfermline, we are told that the issue was canvassed, that there were voices raised for a referendum. But, when Ross Finnie summed up by saying that opposition to the Salmond plan appeared overwhelming in the hall, there was no dissent. That position carried the day by acclaim.

The whole post – including the four nuances of the Scottish Lib Dems’ position – is well worth reading in full.

A number of Scottish Lib Dem bloggers also offered their own thoughts on the conference – here are links to their posts. (As ever, if I’ve missed any, do please email me at , or link to your post in the comments thread, below).