Monday, July 16, 2012

David Hannay - Why I am (a) liberal

These comments stem from my experience as a Scottish Liberal candidate three times in the1970s, when Galloway changed from Tory to SNP; and again as an SLD candidate for the first Holyrood elections, when I was second on the Regional list and also constituency candidate for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley. I never lost a deposit and always increased the vote.

During those elections I stood for three things: Home rule within a Federal UK; Electoral Reform; and Industrial partnership. These are still very relevant, but are not always given prominence today. The following are comments on the current importance of these three policies.

Home rule: within the UK.  Federalism requires changes to Westminster and the House of Lords, with a written constitution for the whole of the UK.  This is unlikely to happen before the independence referendum.  The best option is therefore “Devo plus”, and it is important that this is clearly defined by the anti-independence parties (not unionist because there is no longer a union of parliaments). Essentially taxes should be raised as far as possible where they are spent, and this goes for local authorities as well. At the moment the situation is completely unbalanced with the Barnet Formula and Rate Support Grants. The crucial thing is for external affairs and defence to remain on a UK basis.  It is important that this third option is in the referendum, because it would be supported by the majority in Scotland. To have only a “yes/no” for independence is a huge gamble, insulting to the voters, and risks us all sleepwalking into partition.

Electoral Reform: STV is the best system but after the AV defeat, further progress is unlikely for some time. However, there are now four different electoral systems in Scotland, and it is small wonder that voter turnout is low. There is a case for compulsory voting.

Industrial partnership: Capital in firms being owned by employees is not unusual in places like Germany, and happens here eg:- the John Lewis Partnership. The idea that customers and/or employees should be shareholders is not new, for instance the cooperative movement. It is relevant to Scottish Water which should be mutualised rather than privatised.

There are other important themes such as citizenship and the importance of early years and parenting.  Also localism or subsidiarity is important with taxes being raised as far as possible where they are spent. There is a need to simplify the tax and benefit system for individuals by combining personal taxation with benefits so that a negative income tax could result in a living wage.

There are also two contemporary issues which pose particular problems for Liberals.

The first is population growth, both globally and nationally. This is the most important issue in so many areas such as global warming, sustainability, unemployment, immigration, but it is not politically correct to mention it, especially amongst Liberals.

The second is China with its aggressive industrial and financial power, coupled with an appalling human rights record.

Being a liberal means putting the wellbeing of individuals first before ideologies and dogma when deciding on policies. 

David Hannay is a retired GP who stood for election in Galloway three times in the 1970s, as well as for Holyrood in the first elections for the Scottish Parliament.

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