Tavish Scott to lead Lib Dems 170



By Karrie Gillett

TAVISH Scott has been appointed as the new leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

The MSP for Shetland secured 59 per cent of the vote – putting him well ahead of his political heavyweight rivals Ross Finnie and Mike Rumbles.

Scott – who was deputy leader of the party – takes up the leadership role left empty when Nicol Stephen quit in July citing family reasons.

And the result –announced at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium in front of politicians and party activists – was hailed by Scott as the “gold medal of the Liberal Democrats Olympics”.

Scott was comfortably the winner of the three-horse race with West of Scotland MSP Ross Finnie capturing 23.1 per cent of the vote.

And Mike Rumbles, MSP for Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, achieved 17.9 per cent.

Tavish Scott emerged early on as favourite in the contest for the top job and is no stranger to political life in Scotland.

He served as a deputy minister in the first Holyrood administration and famously quit in protest over fishing policy.

But today, the 42-year-old said he was “very clear” on the challenges that lay ahead as leader and the opportunities it would bring.

And one of Scott’s first duties as an opposition party leader was to deliver an attack on Alex Salmond’s SNP government.

Mr Scott said: “The tectonic plagues of Scottish politics are shifting and when they stop I am determined that the Lib Dems will be a dominant presence on the political landscape.

“After less than 18 months in government, the SNP is riding high in the polls. They are popular – but here is my prediction – by 2010 they will not be.

“We can already see the underlying weakness that will undo Alex Salmond.

“What looks confident, sure-footed and wily today will be seen as arrogant, misguided and politically dishonest tomorrow.

“Spin is the hallmark of this government but spin has a shelf life.”

The outcome of the leadership race will now set the direction of the party and Scott insisted he was the man to take the Lib Dems to the next level.

He said: “I am delighted to be elected leader of my party. I want to make sure that the Liberal Democrats have real ideas and solutions to the needs of everybody in Scotland.

“I am very determined that we get outside the comfort zone of the Holyrood bubble and we talk about what people are feeling at this time with the rising prices of food, fuel and energy.”

“I want to make sure that we as a party have some real, meaningful answers to that.”

The new Lib Dem leader also thanked the outgoing Nicol Stephen, who was present as the result was announced, for his commitment and hard work.

One of the first official duties as party leader will be greeting Scotland’s Olympic heroes when they return to Edinburgh tomorrow.

He said: “I very much look forward to being part of the crowd on Edinburgh Royal Mike to cheer on our Olympians now that they are back home in Scotland.

“It is a great source of pride to al lof us that they have done so well and I can’t wait to see more Scots competing at that level.

“It’s great for our country and for the long term beneft of our young people as well.”

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have also selected Harry Wills as their candidate for the Glenrothes by-election on the Prime Minister’s political doorstep.

No date has been set for the by-election caused by the death of Labour MP John MacDougall in the next constituency to Gordon Brown’s Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath seat.