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A New Year Message from Nicol Stephen MSP, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

January 3, 2008 8:39 PM
Nicol Stephen MSP

Nicol Stephen MSP

As we look forward to the start of a New Year it strikes me that prospects for the Liberal Democrats are strong. Since May we have confounded the pundits with tremendous results in local council by-elections. Our vote has increased by more than any of the other parties and our victory in Helensburgh was an outstanding gain. In the Scottish Parliament, commentators are now talking about the Liberal Democrats as the most effective opposition party. We have a strong and effective team. And in Nick Clegg we have a dynamic and energetic new leader, determined to build our success across the UK.

On the big issues of our time - climate change, the war in Iraq and civil liberties - Labour and the Conservatives are depressingly similar. We have a real opportunity to break that cosy consensus and offer a real alternative.

The data loss disasters of the last few weeks have helped to drive home the importance of our campaign against the introduction of identity cards.

In Scotland, just a few months after the elections, some of the gloss is already coming off the new SNP government. Over the last few months we have exposed the SNP's ever lengthening list of broken promises -Â on police numbers, class sizes and investment in our universities. This is one of the most important duties of any opposition party in a democracy -Â holding the government to account. The increasingly aggressive approach of the SNP to anyone who dares to stand up to them is one of the most concerning developments in Scottish politics.

Our challenge is to use 2008 to build a stronger Scotland in a stronger UK.

We have been leading the initiative to build support for new powers for the Scottish Parliament. I want to see a stronger Parliament, with significant new tax raising powers. I predict that in the year ahead this campaign will take a significant step forward.

As Liberal Democrats we want these new powers for a purpose. We are determined to do more to tackle climate change, with Scotland the renewable energy powerhouse of Europe. And we continue to put investment in education, tackling poverty and the defence of our civil liberties at the heart of all that we do.

Liberal Democrats share a vision of a more liberal nation, where individual liberty and opportunity are at the heart of all that we do. In 2008 my party and I will work to pursue these goals.

So as we start 2008 with a new UK leader, rising poll ratings, an increasing membership and the biggest growth of any party in real votes cast we should reflect on the big opportunities that lie ahead.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you and your family a peaceful and prosperous 2008 and also to pledge that it will be a year when the Liberal Democrats campaign tirelessly to deliver our long term, radical vision to build a stronger, more liberal Scotland.

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