Why Willie?


The question ‘What is Willie Rennie for?’ has troubled political philosophers for years. The question was raised again this weekend as the Liberals Democrats met in Glasgow. Rather than map-out the prospectus for recovery under the Union, Rennie chose to attempt to smear his opponents in a way that is becoming characteristic: petty, ill-informed and infused with a sort of bitterness and bile that is difficult to measure.

It was all quite confusing too.

Rennie has suggested that even raising the idea of difference will lead to a ‘dangerous rise in anti-English sentiment’. It’s like the opposite of unity-in-diversity. Previous efforts to shore up a British identity have focused on (slightly ridiculous) notions of partnership and ‘union’, a coming together of different peoples and nations for a higher, noble cause. Think Douglas Alexander channeling Gordon Brown’s Blue Labourism. But not for Willie. This is a sort of forced uniformity. Britain and Britishness as an absolute orthodoxy, from which any deviation or expression of difference is, somehow, an insult and a crisis.

He warned the SNP to ‘leave identity and values’ out of the debate. How do you leave values out of a political debate about your political future? Now I get that Rennie and his discredited colleagues have to undergo something of a Houdini-style escape routine as they struggle with the austerity straightjacket of their own coalition making – but can’t they leave the rest of us out of their mental contortionism?

You’ve got to love ever-faithful Hamish Macdonell, writing in The Times (this was the guy you might remember who reported last year’s packed-out Radical Independence Conference as a major blow to Alex Salmond):

“He chose his language carefully, aware that  he was treading on sensitive ground (this is code for talking cobblers – Ed) but his message was clear – there is a danger of fuelling anti–English sentiment if the SNP continues to talk up divisions that don’t exist.”

Are you following?

It’s like a re-run of Ghost with a more confusing plot. Willie as a slightly less hunky Patrick Swayze.

My favourite passage of all though has to be: “To start talking about Scotland being under the cosh and undervalued by others may just stir up beliefs that Scotland should somehow be better. That’s what I think is dangerous.”

He actually said that. He is the leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland. He actually said that…

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  1. I hope that, no matter the outcome of the indyref, Scottish voters treat Rennie and his party of political chancers with the contempt they deserve. They are now as toxic as the Tories they sit down with to legislate against the most vulnerable people in our society.

  2. derekbat1 says:

    Surely the point of Union that Willie misses is that we ARE all different in the four nations but that we come together despite our differences in a common interest. That part makes sense to me. In fact it’s the essence of federalism which his party stands for. Britain never was intended to be a uniform, homogenised state where we all eat jellied eels and cor bloody trousers. It is supposed to allow those differences to flourish.
    What he’s really reflecting is fear. He simply cannot imagine Scotland without Britain because he doesn’t believe in his country or his countrymen enough. He is reflecting a collective anxiety of the ScottishnEstablishment who have come to terms with their subservient status and are grateful to be allowed a glimpse of the real power structure.
    This debate is really separating out those who for years made a career paying lip service to Scotland and Scottish values – think Jim Wallace and other signatories to the Claim of Right who surrendered the people’s sovereignty as soon as their British State masters demanded it over the referendum – and those for whom their country IS their belief system.
    The current Unionist pleas not to talk of true Scots and others, and not to point out legitimate differences, reveals their deeper but unspoken acceptance that they are compromising their Scottishness. This is the real point of difference presented by next year’s question. Unionists have muddled through with their fudge of bring British and Scottish but a moment of truth is nearly upon us.
    The question is: what is your priority – Scotland or Britain? Which comes first for you?
    We know Willie’s answer.
    Derek Bateman

  3. bellacaledonia says:

    Apparently “”The Conservatives on their own cannot build a fairer society” too …


  4. proudscot says:

    Rennie’s statement “To start talking about Scotland being under the cosh and undervalued by others, may just stir up beliefs that Scotland should somehow be better. That’s what I think is dangerous!”

    Almost George Foulkesian in its anti-SNP stupidity, when the latter stated in an interview that the SNP Government was making conditions better in Scotland compared to south of the border, “… but they’re doing it deliberately!”

  5. Juteman says:

    Some folk seem to think wee Wullie is a figure of fun, and simply ignore what he says.
    He isn’t funny. He represents all that is wrong with Scottish politics.

  6. Ken MacColl says:

    Dear, dear, Oor Wullie -our national icon -grovel, grovel , grovel.
    I feel sure that Rennie will resign his present list status, put his job, and salary, on the line and carry the LibDem banner to glorious victory in the Dunfermline by-election?

    1. cynicalHighlander says:

      When he was kicked out after 3 years as an MP, failed to win a constituency as an MSP and only got elected with 5.9% of the vote on the list risking his career to actually get elected as a person is very slim to impossible.

  7. Mel Spence says:

    Oh Willie, you’ll be running around Scotland whipping up apathy next

  8. Matt Seattle says:

    ” ‘union’, a coming together of different peoples and nations for a higher, noble cause” – indeed – a federal union would be quite acceptable if it did indeed embody a higher, noble cause. That it does not, that it is a late gasp of empire and colonialism, are two of the reasons for the referendum.

    As for recommending SNP to keep values out of the debate, that’s Liberals – value-free; valueless.

  9. Willie “what’s the point” Rennie,has he ever made a contribution to the Holyrood debates? Has he ever had the courage of his (implied) convictions? has he, ach what’s the point.

  10. muttley79 says:

    Willie Rennie resembles a lot of Scottish unionists at the present time, and not in a good way. Like Anas Sarwar, Jackie Baillie, Lamont, Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander, and countless others, it is getting harder and harder to know what it is they actually believe in? Rennie has never struck me as someone who believes in any Liberal principles. This is a guy who attacked Martin Sim for daring to voice support for a second question in the referendum. He also had a go at Martin Compton over his involvement in the Commonwealth Games, apparently because he supports independence! Rennie’s accusations against independence supporters, whether it be the SNP or others, appear to be designed to hide the fact that he lacks the necessary vision, drive, ability, and ambition to believe that Scotland could run its own affairs as well as any other nation.

  11. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    A non event. He makes Johann Lamont look almost reasonable, that’s how bad he is. What exactly is he accusing the actions of the SNP as being dangerous? Opposing the Bedroom Tax? The filth that his party are up to their necks in.

  12. Donald MacDonald says:

    Pure keech. It’s what he does best. In fact, it’s all he does.

  13. Dave W says:

    I remember from my army days that anyone doing or saying anything unusually stupid was inevitably greeted with a chorus of
    “Why was he born so beautiful
    Why was he born at all,
    He’s no $%*!ing use to anyone
    He’s no $%*Iing use at all”
    Pretty well sums up the Lib Dems as a party, I suppose.

  14. DougtheDug says:

    The question is a lot broader than what is Willie Rennie for? It’s what are the Lib-Dems for? Have a look at the Lib-Dems website and try and find anything on a federal Britain which is their big idea. Click on the “What we stand For” link and you won’t find anything about devolution far less federalism and type federal into their search box and you get reams and reams of info about the federal party bit of the Lib-Dems but if there’s anything else in there it’s lost in the noise.

    There’s no sign of Ming Campbell’s Federalism report or any hint of the “jam-tomorrow” that is going to happen after a no vote in Scotland. On the Lib-Dem’s Website Scotland doesn’t exist. Just like Labour, any hint of a cause or mission has disappeared from Lib-Dem politics and the focus is on London and the south.

    In Willie’s particular case he’s British through and through and he simply doesn’t understand why the nationalists want to promote their Scottish regional identity over their British one or why they want to cause divisions between regions within Britain.

    Willie’s isn’t a prime example of the peter principle because he gained the Lib-Dem Holyrood leadership by simply turning up rather than on a promotion beyond his abilities but he’s still a man who is out of his depth in the middle of a political and identity battle he doesn’t understand. The problem is we know that but he doesn’t.

  15. bbcscotlandshire says:

    OK, Wullie is a rather sad and pitiful creature who seems to believe he has some purpose. But hey, whit can you dae, eh?

  16. Wullie says:

    “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” on the banks of the Clyde. They even think privatising the Royal Mail will be a vote winner in their rural seats.
    Wee Willie obviously watches too much BBC, where we are now on a constant loop of Britishness. British cakes, British curries, British wildlife, British food and now, ta raa, British knitting.
    Meanwhile, Ming thinks we have forgotten about the ten grand for the Georgian bedside cabinets.

  17. In answer to the question of “Why Willie?” I can only think it’s because it’s slightly more polite than just calling him a cock!

  18. Macart says:

    Willie Rennie is the living embodiment of the Scottish cringe. Well we can be and do better. We can because we have the people, the resources and the talent. We will do it because we must.

  19. Clydebuilt says:

    Willie Rennie, he’s the chappie who branded pro-independence postal workers TURKEYS.
    The reasoned argument and politeness typical of the Unionist mindset.

  20. bellacaledonia says:

    More evidence of Liberal abandoning previously held commitments, this time on nuclear power:


  21. John Souter says:

    His reasoning is simply explained – England is first in a ‘Union of Equals.’

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