By NEIL RIDDELL
TAVISH Scott has confirmed that he is standing for the vacant leadership of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
Mr Scott, who has been Shetland’s MSP since 1999, spent the weekend deliberating with family and friends over the decision before launching his bid on Monday lunchtime at the small boat harbour in Victoria Pier, surrounded by five Up Helly A’ guizers.
Former leader Nicol Stephen surprisingly resigned last Wednesday in order to spend more time with his
family, with Mr Scott quickly emerging as the clear favourite to succeed him.
West of Scotland list MSP Ross Finnie has also announced that he will stand, joining a race which includes backbench MSP Mike Rumbles. The contest will last for seven weeks, with hustings to be staged in Aberdeen, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh before next month’s ballot. The winner is due to be announced on 26th August.
Mr Scott said he would not have taken the decision to stand without the full support of his children, who told him to “get on with it”. The MSP was “taken aback” by the “very warm and very welcome” reaction of many constituents since Mr Stephen’s resignation last Wednesday, adding that many had urged him to stand for the leadership.
“People want to see Shetland at the heart of politics in Scotland and therefore seem pleased that I’m going to have a go,” he said.
If he became leader, Mr Scott said, he would strive to give Shetland more political prominence at a national level. “If I’m successful, I have the opportunity to question the first minister every week. Be in no doubt that I will drop Shetland in at every opportunity.”
Discussions with constituents, Mr Scott said, highlighted that the SNP’s proposed referendum on independence was an “utter distraction” for families who are more concerned with the rising cost of food, fuel and housing and the pressure on the jobs market. He also said he feels very strongly that families in Scotland were paying too much tax and wanted to lead a debate on the best way to reduce the burden.
“Over the past 12 months Scotland’s political landscape has radically changed. The nationalists have formed their first government – and have shown themselves to be as opportunistic in office as they always were in opposition,” he said.
“Labour is sinking under the weight of its own internal strife – and on the watch of its own Scottish captain.
And the Scottish people are being sold short as never before. Because amid all the fervid noise and bitter acrimony between Labour and the SNP, peoples’ worries are being ignored.
“Their voices are being drowned out by an ever more acrimonious and pointless feud between the SNP in Edinburgh and New Labour at Westminster. That’s not good enough.”
There are just over 5,000 members of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland and they will elect a new leader using the STV (Single Transferable Vote) system.
Mr Scott’s campaign, being chaired by North Isles MP Alistair Carmichael, has already received the backing of six MSPs, Alison McInnes, Jim Hume, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur, Jamie Stone, Iain Smith and John Farquhar Munro.
A further six Scottish MPs at Westminster are behind his campaign to date: former national leader Menzies Campbell, John Barrett, John Thurso, Willie Rennie, Alan Reid and Danny Alexander.
The Democracy Movement has reacted to Mr Scott’s candidacy by questioning whether he is willing to take responsibility for the consequences of what the movement describes as his party’s “extreme” policies on the EU. It claimed former north isles Liberal Democrat MP and peer Jim Wallace admitted that around 80 per cent of legislation going through the parliament is EU-related.