Page last updated at 10:18 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 11:18 UK

Scots Lib Dems 'not progressing'

Ross Finnie, MSP for the West of Scotland, has decided to stand as Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, following the resignation of Nicol Stephen.

The former environment minister is up against Tavish Scott and Mike Rumbles for the job

Here is Mr Finnie's full declaration statement:


I am standing in this election because I believe I have the ability to provide the leadership and direction necessary to drive the party forward by making Liberal Democrat values and policies relevant to the needs of the people of Scotland.

I was born brought up and still live in Greenock a part of the West of Scotland which for many years suffered from high levels of deprivation and whose politics for most of my adult life were dominated by the Labour Party.

From an early age I found myself more attracted to the Liberal belief that, if you address the problems faced by individual citizens, you are more likely to tackle the problems of the community as a whole - as opposed to the Labour Party's centralist approach of treating groups of individuals as if they were all the same.

That belief, allied to an instinctive wish to stand up for individual freedoms and civil liberties and an abhorrence of intolerance and prejudice of any kind soon found me joining the Liberal Party.

I pursued a career in financial services but my desire to play some part in the creation of a more Liberal Democratic society overtook my professional interests.

I have been the elected convener of the Scottish Liberal Party. For 22 years I served as a local councillor. I was elected as a MSP for the West of Scotland in 1999 and was the only Liberal Democrat to serve as a cabinet minister throughout the eight years of the coalition government, holding largely the same post as minister for the environment and rural development.

In my years as a cabinet minister, I believe I achieved positive outcomes for the environment, for the agriculture and fishing industries and for the people of much of Scotland.

The party has made a number of effective attacks on the SNP Government, but we have failed to connect with the voters as to why they should turn to the Liberal Democrats

I believe I demonstrated the ability to exercise good judgement, to handle crises, to take tough and difficult decisions, to remain calm under pressure and still retain my sense of proportion and my sense of humour.

I think I have achieved much, but I believe I have more to offer the party - and Scotland.

This election allows the party to reflect on the current political context, where it wants to be and how it wishes to influence that context and the leadership qualities required to achieve that aim.

For the first time in more than a decade, largely due to global pressures, we are facing an economic slowdown with individuals becoming concerned, among other things, about the spiralling increase in the cost of living, the threat to job security and, for homeowners, the ability to service their mortgage and these pressures are felt most acutely by those individuals least able to cope.

My concern, however, is that against the background of a fatally-wounded New Labour government, a SNP government failing to deliver on key promises and the Conservatives showing little sign of a 'Cameron bounce', the Liberal Democrats are not making progress in electoral terms.

The party has made a number of effective attacks on the SNP Government, but we have failed to connect with the voters as to why they should turn to the Liberal Democrats.

Our message has become blurred and lacking a distinctive Liberal Democrat edge. We lack a political narrative that brings clarity and cohesion. As a consequence, we find it difficult to set the terms of debate and, all too often, find ourselves responding to a debate the terms of which have been set by another party.

'Creative talent'

I want to change that perception radically and permanently. I want to lead a party whose every comment makes clear what Liberal Democracy is about and, critically, why Liberal Democrat values and policies are relevant to the needs of every individual in Scotland.

I want to lead a party that, because it is demonstrably seen to be relevant, not only attracts new members but also becomes a natural party of choice.

I want the party to concentrate on three themes. I will fight for individual freedoms which embrace not only human rights and civil liberties but also educational opportunity, a healthier society and freedom from poverty and deprivation. These are fundamental values to a Liberal Democratic society.

Sustainable communities can only be achieved by promoting economic development and providing job opportunities while, at the same, time protecting the environment for future generations.

A fairer society can only be achieved by bearing down on intolerance, discrimination, health inequalities, deprivation, a fear of crime and manifest injustice.

I then want the party to harness its creative talent to develop new policies and refine existing policies to deliver on these themes.

To be credible a political party, has to show it can deliver and that means Liberal Democrats must aspire to govern.

'Track record'

The Party made a huge contribution to the coalition government being widely accredited with contributing the most radical policies to the programmes for government and bringing the essential stability to the governments of the first two Scottish Parliaments.

The party has a sound political base with good levels of representation in local government, in the Scottish Parliament and in Westminster.

I want to lead the party in a way that brings all elements together, working to gain the trust of the people to be elected to govern at local and national levels.

To achieve these aims I believe I have the necessary skills. I have the experience.

I have demonstrated the ability to exercise good judgement and to take tough decisions under stress. I have a proven track record of being able to communicate on a public platform, in the Scottish Parliament on radio and on television.

Above all else, I believe I have the ability to enthuse and inspire the party and, through the party, the wider public to believe their lives would be better in a more Liberal and Democratic Society


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