An Islands Bill with teeth, because of Liberal Democrats

In news from Scotland, the Liberal Democrats have been instrumental in delivering new legislation that offers greater protection and powers to Scotland’s island communities.

Year in year out, our islands are voted among the best places to live. From unique culture to breathtaking landscapes and world class heritage, we have it all. But for those of us who live and work in our islands, we know there are also unique challenges.

All too often, however, there is a one-size-fits-all approach to legislation and policy-making that takes no account of island needs or circumstances. In addition, the SNP’s obsession with centralisation has seen powers stripped away over the years.

So, when the Scottish Government announced its intention to introduce a dedicated Islands Bill, Liberal Democrats made it our business to make it work for our island communities.

This past month, we did just that.

In the face of SNP opposition, we secured the votes necessary to create an Islands Bill with real teeth. An Islands Bill that better reflects the expectations of islanders

Where appropriate, island authorities will now be able to apply for more powers and responsibilities. The Scottish Parliament also gave its support to our proposals to ensure the needs of island communities in relation to lifeline transport links, broadband and digital connectivity and fuel poverty are addressed.

I am also pleased that, thanks to a Liberal Democrat amendment, not just future but also existing policy and legislation will now be subjected to a so-called ‘island proofing’ test. This can help address some of the existing problems caused by that one-size-fits-all approach, as well as hopefully reducing the risks in future.

This Bill must signal an end to our islands being treated by government as an after-thought. The test will be whether Ministers and their agencies will respect not just the letter but the spirit of the law.

Island communities will expect nothing less, and Liberal Democrats will be here to ensure it happens.

How we won South Cambs

On May 4th, South Cambs Lib Dems stormed to victory in all up elections on new boundaries, winning 30 of the 45 seats. Previously we’d held just 14 out of 57 seats. Cllr Bridget Smith became the leader of South Cambridge District Council, and won the chance to put liberal politics into practice and make people’s lives better where she lives.

It was a shock victory – though not to those of us who had spent the last couple of years working towards it. For me it had all started at my first party conference nearly 3 years ago. I was sitting in a room in Bournemouth, listening to Tim Pickstone (now Chief Executive of ALDC) explain how to pick a ward and win it. I realised that winning elections wasn’t about being a great politician, it was about working hard and being organised – and I could do that.

But victories on this scale need a great team of people. Preferably people you really like, so that the hard work doesn’t feel like hard work but like spending time with friends. We already had some key people in place, but we needed more. So on returning from conference our first job was to speak to as many of our members as possible.

Email is a great tool – but even the best written emails can’t replace personal contact.

That’s why, over the next year we had hundreds of conversations with new members. I have to say that after June 2016 they did get a bit repetitive “Hi, I’m Mary. I’m calling to welcome you to the Liberal Democrats and ask why you joined? Oh Brexit, really, yes, it’s terrible, and yes we really must do something about it.” There were plenty of conversations that went nowhere – many of our members just want to pay us their annual membership fee. But there were also people who wanted to actually do something – which made it worthwhile. We used a Connect script to keep track of what people said they wanted to do and then made sure to follow them up within a few weeks. Some of our members came along to campaign meetings or delivered some leaflets. Some helped set up our social media and website. And some then became the local organisers in their wards, standing as candidates in the County elections and building their own teams of deliverers and canvassers.

We still used email. We sent out a fortnightly email informing members of canvassing sessions, #LibDemPints and policy talks. So once people were engaged, they had a clear path for getting more involved – even if sometimes that meant just six of us drinking coke and chatting in a rural pub.

In 2017 we had County Elections. And we delivered more leaflets and spoke to more voters than ever before. But our campaign was derailed by the General Election. It polarised voters and meant we didn’t make the gains we’d hoped for. But we had our team. We may have been gutted at the count – but we there together, and we were determined to fight on together.

This article is the first of four pieces. future articles will talk about how we targeted our canvassing, communicated our messages via leaflets and email and got out our voters. All essential parts of our victory. But we couldn’t have done any of that without having a brilliant team of people – and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without them.

Are you a local party officer who wants to build your team? Join the membership development facebook group athttps://www.facebook.com/groups/ldmembership/and see https://www.libdems.org.uk/memsec_testfor details of the roleof membership secretary and links to the technical solutions we have to make e job easier.

Are you inspired to pick a ward and win where you live? Get in touch with your local party, join the Lib Dem Campaigners group on facebook or join ALDC for resources and best practice.

Decision to withdraw from Iran nuclear deal is reckless and short-sighted

Trump’s decision to scrap US participation in the Iran nuclear deal is reckless and short-sighted.

The deal is far from perfect, but it is better to work with our partners to make changes than to pull out altogether and risk heightened tensions in the Middle East.

Trump’s careless actions serve as another reminder of the enormous value of our EU partners.

Iran has signalled that it is willing to consider upholding its end of the nuclear deal if other partners remain party to the agreement.

Boris Johnson’s attempts to reason with Trump fell on deaf ears, but together with our EU partners, it is possible that the Iran nuclear deal can be upheld and an escalation in tensions can be avoided.

FAQs: Giving the people the final say on the Brexit deal

What was the amendment on Monday evening?

Amendment 50 of the EU Withdrawal Bill Report Stage in the House of Lords put the option of the public final say on the deal before the House of Commons. This would include an extension of Article 50 so that there would be time for the vote to be held before the UK is due to leave the EU.

The amendment was a cross-party initiative, the lead names on it were Lord Newby (Leader of the Liberal Democrat group in the Lords); Viscount Hailsham (Conservative), Lord Wigley (Plaid Cymru), Lord Butler of Brockwell (Crossbencher).

Why should the public be given the final say?

Theresa May and the Conservatives are making a mess of Brexit.

When a deal is finally agreed we still believe it should be the public, not politicians, who have the final say.

You should be able to choose whether the deal is the right deal for Britain’s future. If it’s not, then you should be able to reject it and remain in the European Union.

Why did the amendment get voted down?

If Labour had supported the amendment, it would have passed. But the Labour frontbench sat on their hands and made it harder to give the British people the final say on the Brexit deal.

What does this mean for Brexit?

It means that, for the time being, the public have not been given the final say on the Brexit deal. The Liberal Democrats will continue to fight to give the British public the final say and the chance to Exit from Brexit.

Will the EU accept the outcome of a vote on the deal?

Key EU figures have said that they would welcome the UK’s decision to remain in the EU. French President Emmanuel Macron has said “the door remains open” for Britain to change its mind about Brexit.

What happens next?

The Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign for an Exit from Brexit. To help us win that fight, donate to our campaign today:

Why we need to ban upskirting

Upskirting is the act of taking a photo up a woman’s skirt without her consent.

In 2009 it was made illegal in Scotland but shockingly it remains legal in England and Wales.

Authorities can ask a perpetrator to delete the photo but under current law no further prosecution is possible.

Police have managed to prosecute some people for upskirting for outraging public decency. But this is patently absurd as it should not matter how public it was or who else saw it. This also ignores the fact this is a crime with a victim.

Police are stuck trying to prosecute a sexual offence with a public nuisance order.

The law should focus on the individual victims and the crime committed against them because it is their body that is being taken advantage of without their consent.

Some Ministers have tried to claim that police need better training, but this is simply not true.

Police and Crime Commissioners from across the country have called for upskirting to become a specific offence as it is so difficult to prosecute with the law as it currently stands.

Due to the lack of a clear legal framework around the issue, the actual number of offences taking place each year is likely to be much higher.

Girls as young as ten have been targeted by this horrific crime.

Police are not required to keep a record of the reports they receive. The Press Association’s FOI found that only 15 of 44 police forces in England and Wales recorded upskirting reports in the last two years.

Girls as young as ten have been targeted by this horrific crime.

Upskirting causes emotional distress and leaves a lasting impact.

It is time the law is changed to criminalise this distressing and disgusting practice.