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SCOTTISH Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie is under fire after he indicated a desire for his party to return to the “calm period” of coalition with the Tories.
Mr Rennie’s comment today came as he sought to take credit for deals which channeled investment into large conurbations in the Scottish parliament.
Saying these were the brainchild of former Lib Dem deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, Mr Rennie added: “Remember that calm period during British politics, oh I wish we could return to that calm [time] with Nick Clegg.”
Mr Clegg served as deputy to Tory prime minister David Cameron from 2010 to 2015 and his party’s MPs were crucial to ensuring that massive public-sector cuts and right-wing social security reforms passed through the House of Commons.
Mr Rennie’s flippant comments stand in contrast with the more nuanced views on the coalition given by other senior Lib Dems in recent months.
Last September, national party leader Sir Vince Cable acknowledged that the vote for Brexit was fuelled by the austerity politics of his government.
Asked if the link between austerity and Brexit caused him regret, Mr Cable told Sky News: “Yes it does. One of the aspects of austerity that did the most harm was the massive cutback in public investment.
“I know that it’s the emotive stuff around social security spending that gets people angry.
“But the thing that did harm was the big cutbacks in investment and that’s what has caused many of these northern communities to continue to decay.”
Labour MSP Neil Findlay argued that Mr Rennie’s comments showed that the Lib Dems hadn’t “changed since they got into bed with the Tories in Westminster.”
The frontbencher told the Star last night: “The coalition government was anything but calm for working-class families in Scotland.
“Thousands of workers lost their jobs, many were hit by the bedroom tax and we are all still feeling the effects of years of austerity aided and abetted by the Lib Dems.”
Mr Rennie was speaking in an opposition debate on Scotland’s economic future called by Labour.
Arguing that “ownership is power,” Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard made the case to “extend democracy” through worker ownership and a pro-active industrial strategy.
SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay hit back: “Richard Leonard says Scotland’s future economy needs an industrial strategy, I say we’ve already got one.”
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