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Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrats
Libearalaich Deamocratach na h-Alba
Scots Leeberal Democrats
Leader Willie Rennie MSP
Deputy Leader Alistair Carmichael MP
President The Lord Bruce of Bennachie
Founded 3 March 1988
Headquarters 4 Clifton Terrace
EH12 5DR
Youth wing Liberal Youth Scotland
Membership  (Dec 2013) 2,831 [1]
Ideology Social liberalism
Social democracy [2]
Political position Centre [2]
International affiliation Liberal International
European affiliation Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party
European Parliament group Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Colours Gold
Scottish seats in the House of Commons
1 / 59
Scottish seats in the European Parliament
0 / 6
Scottish Parliament
5 / 129
Local government in Scotland
65 / 1,223
Politics of Scotland
Political parties

The Scottish Liberal Democrats (Scottish Gaelic: Libearal Deamocratach na h-Alba, Scots: Scots Leeberal Democrats) is a social-liberal,[3] unionist, political party in Scotland.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are one of the three state parties[4] within the federal[5] Liberal Democrats, the others being the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the English Liberal Democrats.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats hold 5 of 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament and 1 of 59 Scottish seats in the UK Parliament.


  • Organisation 1
    • Leaders 1.1
    • Deputy Leaders 1.2
    • Structure 1.3
    • Administration 1.4
    • Party Office Bearers 1.5
    • Scottish Headquarters Staff 1.6
    • Executive Committee 1.7
    • Policy Committee 1.8
    • Conference Committee 1.9
    • Conferences 1.10
    • Associated organisations 1.11
    • Association of Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners 1.12
  • History 2
    • 1999–2007: Coalition government with Labour 2.1
    • 2007–present 2.2
  • Policy platform 3
  • Elected representatives (current) 4
    • Scottish Parliament 4.1
    • House of Commons of the United Kingdom 4.2
  • Electoral performance 5
  • Liberal Democrat Scottish peers in the House of Lords 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9



Deputy Leaders


In keeping with its basis as a 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 Craig Harrow, and the eight Office Bearers, including the leader Willie Rennie MSP, the deputy leader Alistair Carmichael MP and the party President Lord Bruce of Bennachie.

The development of party policy rests upon a distinct 14-member Policy Committee, chaired by John Edward. The Party Manager is Linda Wilson, and the party's headquarters are at 4 Clifton Terrace, Edinburgh.

Party Office Bearers

Scottish Headquarters Staff

  • Party Manager: Linda Wilson
  • Campaigns Director: Adam Stachura
  • Communications Director: Adam Clarke

Executive Committee

  • Derek Barrie
  • Audrey Findlay
  • David Green
  • Margaret Smith
  • Paul McGarry
  • Judy Hayman
  • Kevin Lang
  • Caron Lindsay
  • Galen Milne
  • Allan Heron
  • Callum Leslie

Policy Committee

  • Euan Robson
  • Hugh Andrew
  • Alan Blair
  • Ewan Hoyle
  • Ruaraidh Dobson

Conference Committee

  • Jenni Lang
  • Mike Falchikov
  • Sheila Thomson
  • Jennifer Jamieson-Ball
  • Callum Leslie
  • Ross Stalker
  • Paul McGarry
  • Jo Swinson (MP)
  • George Lyon (MEP)
  • Craig Harrow (Scottish Convener)
  • Isabel Nelson (SWLD)
  • Kieran Leach (Policy Committee)
  • Helen Watt (Executive Committee)
  • Daniel O'Malley (LYS)


The Scottish party holds two conferences per year; a three-day Spring Conference, and a one-day Autumn Conference.

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 (ASLDC)
  • Liberal Democrats for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality (DELGA) (Scottish Board)
  • Liberal Youth Scotland (LYS)
  • Scottish Green Liberal Democrats
  • Scottish Women Liberal Democrats

Association of Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners

The Association of Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillors (ASLDC)[6] is a network of Liberal Democrat councillors and local campaigners across Scotland which works to support and develop Liberal Democrat involvement in Scottish Local Government.

Following the Local Council Election of May 2012, under the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, 71 Liberal Democrats were elected, a drop of 95 on Local Council Election of May 2007.

A voluntary Executive Committee meets several times a year to run the organisation.

  • Convenor: Cllr Willie Wilson
  • Vice-Convenor: John Elder
  • Secretary: Cllr Mags Kennedy
  • Treasurer: Simon Hutton
  • Members: Cllr Fraser Macpherson, Cllr Peter Barrett, Millie McLeod, Cllr Ian Yuill, Caron Lindsay

ASLDC works alongside Liberal Democrats in the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) where Cllr Peter Barrett is leader of the Lib Dem Group


The Scottish Liberal Democrat party is the successor to the Scottish Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party in Scotland, following the merger of these parties in 1988.[7]

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 devolution referendum.

1999–2007: Coalition government with Labour

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 sat as an opposition party in the Parliament.

On 2 July 2008, Nicol Stephen resigned as the party leader. The former deputy leader Michael Moore MP served as acting leader of the party until Tavish Scott MSP was elected party leader on 26 August 2008, winning 59% of the votes cast in a contest with parliamentary colleagues Ross Finnie and Mike Rumbles. (See also Scottish Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2008.)

At the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, the party lost all its mainland constituencies, retaining only the two constituencies of Orkney and Shetland. It also secured three List MSPs. This was by far the party's worst electoral performance since the re-establishment of a Scottish parliament in 1999.

At the 2014 European Parliament elections, the party lost its only MEP.

The party lost 10 of its 11 MPs at the 2015 general election, with only Alistair Carmichael narrowly retaining Orkney and Shetland with a 3.6% majority.

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.[8] 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.[9]

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 Britain.

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

Elected representatives (current)

Scottish Parliament

Member of the Scottish Parliament Constituency or Region First elected Spokespersons[10]
Willie Rennie Mid Scotland and Fife 2011 Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Liam McArthur Orkney 2007 education and energy
Alison McInnes North East Scotland 2007 business manager and justice
Jim Hume South of Scotland 2007 health and housing
Tavish Scott Shetland 1999 transport, rural affairs, fisheries, environment and sport

House of Commons of the United Kingdom

Member of Parliament Constituency First elected Notes
Alistair Carmichael Orkney and Shetland 2001 Only MP elected in the 2015 general election.

Electoral performance

This chart shows the electoral results of the Scottish Liberal Party, from its first election in 1992. Total number of seats, and vote percentage, is for Scotland only. For results prior to 1992 see Scottish Liberal Party.

Election Vote % Seats Outcome of election
1992 13.1
9 / 72
Conservative Overall Majority
1997 13.0
10 / 72
Labour Overall Majority
2001 16.3
10 / 72
Labour Overall Majority
2005 22.6
11 / 59
Labour Overall Majority
2010 18.9
11 / 59
Conservative & Liberal Democrat Coalition
2015 7.5
1 / 59
Conservative Overall Majority

Liberal Democrat Scottish peers in the House of Lords

Peer Ennobled Notes
Patrick Boyle, 10th Earl of Glasgow 1984 Current chief of Clan Boyle
Elizabeth Barker, Baroness Barker 1999
James Erskine, 14th Earl of Mar 2000
Archy Kirkwood, Baron Kirkwood of Kirkhope 2005 MP for Roxburgh and Berwickshire from 1983 to 2005
Veronica Linklater, Baroness Linklater 1997
Robert Maclennan, Baron Maclennan of Rogart 2001 Leader of the Social Democratic Party & Leader of the Social and Liberal Democrats (1987 to 1988)
Jeremy Purvis, Baron Purvis of Tweed 2013 MSP for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (2003 to 2011)
David Steel, Baron Steel of Aikwood 1997 Leader of the Liberal Party & Leader of the Social and Liberal Democrats (1976 to 1988)
Nicol Stephen, Baron Stephen 2011 Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats (2005 to 2008)
Alison Suttie, Baroness Suttie 2013 Deputy chief of staff to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (2010 to 2011)
Iain Vallance, Baron Vallance of Tummel 2004
Jim Wallace, Baron Wallace of Tankerness 2007 Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats (1992 to 2005)

See also


  1. ^ "Search - The Electoral Commission". 
  2. ^ a b Allegra Stratton. "Liberal Democrats to fight next election as totally independent party". the Guardian. 
  3. ^ Helma Gerritje Engelien de Vries (2007). Insiders and Outsiders: Global Social Movements, Party Politics, and Democracy in Europe and North America. ProQuest. pp. 208–.  
  4. ^ "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)
  5. ^ "Party Structure",
  6. ^ "Scotland and ASLDC - Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors". 
  7. ^ "Liberal Democrat History Group". Retrieved 2011-05-07. 
  8. ^ "Scottish policy responsibilities include all devolved matters plus matters that we believe should be the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament.",
  9. ^ "Microsoft Word - Steel Commission Report March 2006 formatted.doc" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-05-07. 
  10. ^ "Labour and Lib Dems reveal detail of reshuffles". 

External links

  • Official website
  • Steel Commission, Moving to Federalism - A New Settlement for Scotland (published in March 2006)
  • ASPECT: Access to Scottish Parliamentary Election Candidate Materials, University of Strathclyde
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