Willie Rennie to ‘stand aside’ as Scottish Liberal Democrats leader

·4-min read
Willie Rennie (PA Wire)
Willie Rennie (PA Wire)

Willie Rennie has announced his intention to “stand aside” as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

The 53-year-old posted a video on Twitter on Monday evening confirming his departure “after 11 elections and referendums over 10 years and a global pandemic”.

In the video, recorded by Mr Rennie on a hill climb, he thanked the people of north-east Fife for re-electing him, adding: “I will continue to work for you.”

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He said: “Over the last decade, there have been both gains and losses along the way, but I have enjoyed every effort.

“I do love a good campaign, but it’s time for a fresh face to lead our party forward.

“The new leader will have my full support, right in the bright new chapter for the Scottish Liberal Democrat story.

“To the people of north-east Fife, thank you for re-electing me in May – I will continue to work for you.

“To the members of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, it has been a privilege to lead you – I look forward to campaigning with you again soon.

“We have elections to win.”

POLITICS Elections (PA Graphics)
POLITICS Elections (PA Graphics)

After the last Scottish Parliament election in May, Mr Rennie conceded it was “frustrating” his party had not been able to gain more votes, even though he said that “our message clearly got through and had a big appeal on the doorsteps in our strongest areas”.

Issues he highlighted as being important in the next five years included mental health, early years education, an industrial strategy for recovery, and action on the climate emergency which he also mentioned in the video.

Mr Rennie said: “I have always believed that politics can be a vehicle to tackle the big issues and transform the lives of people we are elected to serve.

“That’s why under my leadership we have championed the case for better mental health services, world class schools and investment for early years education.

“Ours was the lone but important voice speaking out against the centralisation of Scotland’s police and for a more liberal justice system.

“We moved the debate and deliver change so that many more people can now achieve their potential.”

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Paying tribute to her Holyrood colleague, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Best wishes to Willie Rennie. Despite our political disagreements, I’ve always respected his commitment and decency.

“Political leadership takes its toll and, after 10 years at the helm of his party, I’m sure he is looking forward to new challenges.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also said: “It’s not been a quiet 10 years in Scottish politics…

“Throughout it all, Willie Rennie has led with humour, positivity, energy and compassion.

“He is a good friend and an inspiration to all those that love a photo-op.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross added: “Best wishes to Willie.

“He’s been leader all the way through a rollercoaster decade in Scottish politics and I hope he now gets to enjoy a lot more well-deserved time with family.

“Scottish election photo ops will never be the same again.”

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North East Fife MP and Lib Dem chief whip Wendy Chamberlain tweeted: “@willie_rennie isn’t just my constituency colleague, he’s my friend.

“He’s also the reason why I’m an MP because he asked me to stand.

“Thanks for everything you have done for the party in the last decade. Looking forward to knocking doors with you soon!”

Lib Dem party leader Sir Ed Davey said: “From banging the drum on mental health and education to those amazing photo-ops, Willie Rennie has been a fantastic leader, he is the best of us.

“Delighted he is sticking around as an MSP. Our party and our country need him.”

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