Scottish election: ‘Recovery first’ is Lib Dem message to Falkirk voters

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie says his party will put "recovery first" as he made his appeal to voters in Central Scotland.

Mr Rennie recognises that his candidates in the two Falkirk constituencies are unlikely to win, so he is asking voters to think about using their vote to support LibDem candidates on the list.

"Realistically, that's our best chance - we want to put recovery ahead of independence and voting Liberal Democrat is the best way to do that," he said.

Their campaign centres on three key issues that they hope will win support: education, mental health and jobs.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie unveils his commitment card ahead of the first TV debate. (Pic: Lisa Ferguson) Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie unveils his commitment card ahead of the first TV debate. Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie unveils his commitment card ahead of the first TV debate.

In education, the Liberal Democrats are proposing 3,500 new teachers with permanent contracts to help young people get their education back on track "straight away".

Mr Rennie says that change is desperately needed to help recovery from the pandemic.

He said: "We want to reform the SQA and Education Scotland who were responsible for the exams fiasco last year and for a pretty turgid response to the lockdown."

His party also want to see more investment in mental health - from more preventative measures to training many more psychiatrists to fulfil the huge rise in demand for services.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie (Pic: Lisa Ferguson)

"At the moment, we have 1500 young people who have been waiting over a year to get help and we have 5000 adults in the same position.

"We need to change that."

They also want to see a focus on jobs, with ambitions to transform the economy by using less gas and focusing on renewables.

But he said transformation must be brought about by changing customer demand and that industries such as the oil and chemical giants in Grangemouth "won't change overnight".

Mr Rennie said: "Our aim is not to shut down the North Sea on day one, which I think to some extent is what the Greens are proposing.

"That would have a cataclysmic effect on places like Grangemouth.

"We don't want a repeat the mistakes of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, when she destroyed an industry with nothing to replace it.

"We need a transition - we need to reduce demand first, rather than cut off the supply."

Looking at town centre recovery, Mr Rennie said his party was proposing a Land Value Tax that would support high street retailers.

And he also said his party was very concerned with how "big new housing estates such as Kinnaird" were being left without facilities and public services.

He agrees that the launch of the Alba Party has focused many people's minds on how the list system works, but hopes this will benefit the Liberal Democrats.

"You want a parliament that's properly representative," he said.

"If people want to focus on recovery, rather than independence, then voting LibDem will make a difference - particularly on the peach ballot paper.”

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