Alistair Carmichael: Tory and SNP governments ‘remarkably similar’

Written by Jenni Davidson on 10 March 2017 in News

‘Nationalism is still nationalism’, the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP told his party’s conference in Perth

Alistair Carmichael MP - Image credit: Press Association

The Conservative and SNP governments are “remarkably similar”, Scottish Liberal Democrat MP and deputy Scottish leader Alistair Carmichael told the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Perth this afternoon.

The former Scottish secretary said it was Scotland’s “misfortune” to have two nationalist governments, adding that “the answer to nationalism is never more nationalism”.

“Whatever they may call themselves, it is our country's misfortune now to have two nationalist governments - a Scottish nationalist government in Edinburgh and a British nationalist government in London,” he said.

“For all their differences they are remarkably similar.”

He also compared the SNP’s nationalism with that of Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, calling the party’s policies “divisive and exclusive”.


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The Lib Dem MP criticised the Conservatives for taking the UK out of the single market and the customs union with the EU, and Ruth Davidson for “conspiring” to talk about nothing else but the constitution since last May.

“That’s not opposition. That’s collusion,” he said.

The Liberal Democrats were now the only party in Scotland that occupied the same ground as the majority of Scots, wanting to stay in the UK and the EU, he claimed.

“Today, if you are a Scot that wants Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom, and you want the United Kingdom to remain part of Europe, then only the Liberal Democrats will speak for you,” he said.

In his speech, the Orkney and Shetland MP said the Lib Dems were “back in business” and winning again, listing the party’s recent victories in 32 local authority by-elections, as well as the election of Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney in Zac Goldsmith’s former seat of Richmond Park.

“[M]ore people than ever understand that in these extraordinary times, when the forces of populism, nationalism and isolationism are at bay, our country needs liberal voices again and for that they turn to the Liberal Democrats,” he said.

Meanwhile he called the SNP's nationalism “divisive and exclusive”.

He said: “The rise of nationalism, wherever it is found, challenges our Liberal values.

“Let us be quite clear about this. The answer to nationalism is never more nationalism.   

“Dress it up any way you like but nationalism is still nationalism. Alex Salmond will tell you that all he wants if for decisions about Scotland to be made in Scotland.

“How is that different at its heart from Nigel Farage wanting to take back control? 

“Or even Donald Trump wanting to do deals, great deals, that put America first? 

“Nationalists will talk about values, but ascribe them to a particular country or people.”

Carmichael referred to “misty eyed rhetoric” during the independence referendum about ‘Scottish values’ of community, inclusion and compassion.  

“Do they really believe that all Scots hold these values? Or that only Scots can hold them? Maybe if you don't hold them then you are not quite Scottish enough,” he said.

“Whatever it means, it is divisive and exclusive and we should have none of it.”

Meanwhile, an Ipsos MORI opinion poll for STV published yesterday put the Liberal Democrats in fifth place, behind the Greens, with a predicted six per cent share of the vote in May’s Scottish local government elections – similar to their vote share in the last council elections in 2012.

The Scottish Liberal Democra conference continues until tomorrow, with former UK leader Nick Clegg speaking this afternoon and Scottish leader Willie Rennie tomorrow.

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