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Scottish Liberal Democrats

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Leader  Willie Rennie MSP
President  Cllr Eileen McCartin
Deputy Leader  Alistair Carmichael MP
Youth wing  Liberal Youth Scotland
Founded  8 March 1988; 29 years ago (1988-03-08)
Headquarters  4 Clifton Terrace Edinburgh EH12 5DR

The Scottish Liberal Democrats (Scottish Gaelic: Libearal Deamocratach nla h-Alba, Scots: Scotis Whigamore Pairtie) is a liberal and social-liberal political party in Scotland.


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


The Scottish Liberal Democrats are one of the three state parties within the federal Liberal Democrats, the others being the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the English Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats do not contest elections in Northern Ireland.


  • Malcolm Bruce (3 March 1988 – 18 April 1992)
  • Jim Wallace (18 April 1992 – 23 June 2005)
  • Nicol Stephen (27 June 2005 – 2 July 2008)
  • Tavish Scott (26 August 2008 – 7 May 2011)
  • Willie Rennie (17 May 2011 – present)
  • Deputy Leaders

  • Michael Moore (2 November 2002 – 23 September 2010)
  • Jo Swinson (23 September 2010 – 23 September 2012)
  • Alistair Carmichael (23 September 2012 – present)
  • Structure

    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 Scottish Council Areas), 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 party's headquarters are located at 4 Clifton Terrace, Edinburgh.

    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 Executive Committee, which is chaired by the Convener of the party and includes the Leader, the Depute Leader and the President of the party, as well as the party Treasurer and the three Vice-Conveners. See below for the current office-bearers and all other members of the Party's three management committees (Executive Committee, Policy Committee and Conference Committee). All party members vote every two years in internal elections to elect people to all the below positions, except Leader & Depute Leader.

    Current Party Leadership, Office Bearers & Committee Members

  • Leader: Willie Rennie MSP
  • Depute Leader: Alistair Carmichael MP
  • President: Cllr Eileen McCartin
  • Convener: Sheila Thomson
  • Executive Committee Members: Jacquie Bell, Emma Farthing-Sykes, Graham Garvie, David Green, James Harrison, Allan Heron, Dawud Islam, Christine Jardine, Jenny Marr, Paul McGarry, Galen Milne, Alan Reid.
  • Vice-Convener, Policy: Isobel Davidson
  • Policy Committee Members: Jacquie Bell, Ewan Hoyle, Barbara Mills, Euan Robson, Elisabeth Wilson.
  • Vice-Convener, Conference: Jenni Lang (also Scottish Rep on Federal Conference Committee)
  • Conference Committee Members: Graeme Cowie, David Green, Callum Leslie, Sandy Leslie, Paul McGarry, Ross Stalker.
  • Vice-Convener, Campaigns & Candidates: Dan Farthing-Sykes (also Scottish Rep on Federal Executive Committee)
  • Treasurer: Caron Lindsay
  • Scottish Headquarters Staff

    The party employs a small team of staff at their HQ in Edinburgh.

  • Party Manager: Linda Wilson
  • Campaigns Director: Adam Stachura
  • Communications Director: Adam Clarke
  • Administration Assistant: Colum Bannatyne
  • Conferences

    Like the Federal party, the Scottish party holds two conferences per year; a Spring Conference, and an 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) 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.

  • Convener: Cllr Willie Wilson
  • Vice-Convener: 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 was formed by the merger of the Scottish Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party in Scotland, as part of the merger of the Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party parties on 3 March 1988.

    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.

    2007–present: Opposition and electoral decline

    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.

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

    At the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, the party again had 5 MSPs elected but was pushed into 5th place by the Scottish Greens. While it gained the 2 constituency seats of Edinburgh Western and North East Fife from the SNP, its vote share fell slightly overall.

    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. 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.

    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.

    UK General Elections

    This chart shows the electoral results of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, 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.


    Scottish Liberal Democrats Wikipedia

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