Thursday, 31 July 2008

Ross Finnie answers my questions

This is the response I've now had from Ross Finnie in response to the questions I submitted to all three leadership candidates a few weeks ago:

Hi Bernard

Thank you for your email with your 10 Leadership election questions which I have answered in the order in which you set them.

Vision

First, Scots must believe that their individual freedoms are being protected, and those freedoms embrace not only human rights and civil liberties but also educational opportunity, a healthier society and freedom from poverty and deprivation. I believe these to be fundamental values in a Liberal Democratic society.

Second, individual citizens must become aware that it is essential they are part of sustainable communities where economic development provides sufficient job opportunities whilst at the same time we are protecting the environment for future generations.

Third, a Liberal society is a fairer society, where Government bears down on intolerance, discrimination, health inequalities, deprivation, a fear of crime and manifest injustice.

Campaigning

I want fundamentally to change the way in which we project the Party. This will have a clear impact on campaigning. In this regard, I believe, our fundamental weakness has been the failure to develop a political narrative which would bring cohesion to the way in which we project Liberal Democracy. Prior to this election I was engaged in developing a narrative and if elected I would, as a matter of urgency, convene a group to develop our narrative. From the narrative, we would then develop our key themes and having got buy-in fro the Party it would be vital that we stuck to the narrative, stuck to the core message and in every communication convey to a wider electorate the relevance of Liberal democrat values and policies to their lives.

Technology

I am clear that we are not using new technology effectively and again as a matter of urgency I would wish to draw on the talents within the Party to completely revamp how we embrace new technology for campaigning.

Relationships

I believe it imperative that we improve our relationships with outside bodies and in addition to the Leader having a more structured programme of engagement. If I was leader I would want to make clear to every spokesperson that part of their remit was to engage with those in business, in the voluntary sector and the mutual / co-operative movements amongst others. The task of that engagement would be to deploy the relevant part of the narrative again to persuade them of the relevance of liberal democracy to their particular concerns – but also to draw on the wealth of ideas and experience to be found in Scotland’s civic sector.

The Federal Party

Relations with the Federal party have always to be improved, but we have to recognise that this is a two way street. For example, I have always made it my business to attend the Federal conference in the Autumn as a way of trying to engage with a wider range of people in the Federal Party. If elected leader I would want to extend that process and, on the basis of better relationships on a personal level, form the basis of a better relationship between the two parties.

Scottish Parliament

I am keen to see the outcome of the Calman Commission, but on the basis of the Steel Commission’s report I am clear that the major area for an increase in powers is over taxation. I totally support fiscal federalism (although I wish we could find a better phrase) because I think this would give the Parliament more responsibility in financial terms and greater flexibility in how it used the taxation instruments for the benefit of the Scottish economy, people and environment.

Council Tax

I am not opposed to local councils having access to a wider range of tax raising powers and believe it would be helpful if they raised a higher proportion of their finance. That would have to be balanced, however, against any impression of over-taxation and would have to be seen in the context of our tax proposals at both Federal and a Scottish level.

Disengagement

I believe that individuals will engage if they think the political leader and the political party can be trusted - and that our policies are relevant to their needs. It follows, therefore, that if elected, a key task would be to project myself and the Party in a way which earned trust and to engage with the Party in developing and defining its policies to make them relevant to the needs of the people of Scotland.

Party Engagement

I would want to be the Leader of the Scottish Party as a whole. The Party will not advance unless all of the elements - the individual members, the local parties, the youth organisations, the local councillors, the Westminster and Holyrood parliamentarians and the MEP - all have participated in the scheme and genuinely believe that they are part of a team, campaigning with people full of enthusiasm to drive the Party forward.

Binge Drinking
I believe the key elements in addressing binge drinking to be the following:

a) an improvement in the education delivered in schools on the impact of alcohol and the management of drinking alcohol;
b) as the recent examples of pursuing test purchasing have shown, the current law against those who sell alcohol to under age persons must be more rigorously enforced;
c) the law must also be more effectively employed to prevent cheap offers which induce young people to break the law; and
d) the specific measures have to be allied to the general trust of providing support to those at an early age who become addicted to alcohol, and a change in the law on drink-driving to lower the level at which a prosecution can be secured.


I'll have a think about the answers from all three candidates and decide who I'll be voting for in the next few days.

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