What is the Point of Willie Rennie?

scottish_independence_sticker-r3fe2b496a52b46e7a4985a9b3817d323_v9wxo_8byvr_324It is more in sorrow than anger that I write this post. As the leader of one of Scotland’s main parties and one with a distinguished history, I had expected better from Mr Rennie. A couple of months ago Alex Salmond gave a speech outlining quite clearly why some things would remain more or less the same post independence. He referred to these as the five unions – the European Union, a defence union through NATO, a currency union, the Union of the Crowns and the social union between the people of these isles. Mr Rennie almost immediately appeared in the media and clearly implied that the UK would not agree to these five unions.  I wrote about this in an earlier post, here.

Subsequent to that post I wrote by email to Mr Rennie asking him to provide some clarification for this claim. I pointed out that as the current coalition government will still be in power in the months following the referendum, it is this government which will have to take the initial steps in any negotiations following a Yes vote in the referendum.  I ended by asking him, as the leader of the LibDems in Scotland, a party that is part of the UK government, in the interests of clarity, to explain just how he would respond to each of Mr Salmond’s proposals and to how he would expect his government to respond. A month went by with no response. Following a reminder of my original request I received the following reply:

Mr Rutherford
Thank you for your comprehensive email. 
The concern I have about proposals for an independent Scotland is that Scotland’s place in the unions referred to is at the mercy of others.  It depends on good will of others when it may not be in their best interests to do so.  That is especially the case when Scotland will have recently rejected partnership with the rest of the UK.
I am sorry I cannot respond in any more detail as I have a meeting to go to.
Willie Rennie

Not much of a reply in truth. And no attempt whatsoever to answer any of my questions. So I wrote of yet again, pointing out that my questions referred only to the UK government, the one which contains LibDem ministers. To keep matters simple I ended by asking Mr Rennie: “could you please state on what evidence you base your claim that it would not be in the best interests of the current UK government to support the five unions referred to in my original email?”

At least this time I got a pretty swift reply. But alas is was just as empty as the previous one. Here is what Mr Rennie deemed to be a suitable reply:

Mr Rutherford
Thank you for your message.
The rUK government does not exist and therefore it is impossible to know exactly what it will decide or what will be in its interests.
Thank you for your interest in this issue.
Willie Rennie

Once again not the slightest interest in answering my questions. His blatant unwillingness to answer is clear from his reference to the rUK government. In none of my emails did I refer to this government. At all times I made it clear that I was referring to the current UK government. On the simple basis that it will be this current UK government which will have the responsibility of initiating negotiations in the event of a yes vote.

My sad conclusions from all of this correspondence is that Willie Rennie is not worthy to be the leader of a major political party. He is clearly much more comfortable in making unsupported scaremongering assertions than answering the legitimate questions of a fellow citizen. No doubt he is so used to our tame media letting him get away unchallenged with his wild assertions. However I had hoped that as an interested citizen and voter, Mr Rennie would be more willing to at least engage with my questions. No such luck. He repeatedly refused to engage with me on the basis of the most childish excuses.

Mr Rennie also seems to be unaware of the implications of his claim that he cannot know what rUK will decide or what will be in its interests as it does not exist. If the rUK does not exist, then neither does an independent Scotland. In which case can we presume that Mr Rennie will in future refrain from asking the SNP and other YES campaigners for certainty about this and that in an as yet non existing independent Scotland? I for one will not be holding my breath. For another thing that Mr Rennie has made clear is his basic hypocrisy when it comes to Scottish Independence. He is free to ask all kinds of questions and make all kinds of baseless claims, but on no account must he be asked for answers.

The final point from all this correspondence that is a bit surprising is how openly Mr Rennie admits his ignorance. I had assumed that as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats he would have some knowledge of what his party colleagues were thinking and proposing to do in the event of a yes vote.  Alas, I was clearly wrong and he has admitted to having no knowledge whatsoever.  Which surely begs the question of why he is so frequently invited to air his ignorance on our publicly funded airwaves.

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