Smacking and fracking on Liberal Democrats’ conference agenda

Willie Rennie, left, with UK Lib Dem leader Tim Farron. Picture: Neil Hanna
Willie Rennie, left, with UK Lib Dem leader Tim Farron. Picture: Neil Hanna
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LIBERAL Democrats will today use their spring conference in Edinburgh to launch their Holyrood election build-up with new promises on banning smacking, and treating drug abuse as a health issue.

Scottish party leader Willie Rennie will also tell delegates at the Assembly Rooms in George Street how the party would invest in education spending and getting Scotland “fit for the future”. He will also explain how he would use the £475 million revenue from his proposed 1p income tax rise.

Delegates will also debate calls for an ongoing five-year moratorium on fracking and the ban on smacking children.

Representatives will hear a call for a total ban on smacking children. The motion on the rights of children and young people urges the Scottish Government to legislate to “prohibit all physical punishment of children”.

It follows a report last year, “Equally Protected?” by a range of children’s charities which said physical punishment was associated with increased childhood aggression and antisocial behaviour and carried a serious risk of escalation into abuse.

Tomorrow the conference will hear from UK Lib Dem leader Tim Farron. And delegates will be asked to endorse a “pre-manifesto” entitled Fit for the Future, which includes “bringing back democracy” into Police Scotland; expanding access to mental health treatment; investing more in GPs; and treating drug abuse as a health issue rather than a crime.

In his leader’s address, Mr Rennie is expected to say: “Our penny for education will be spent on expanding nursery education, implementing a pupil premium, stopping cuts to schools and repairing cuts to colleges. Those are our four priorities for children and young people.” He will say £170m a year would fund a pupil premium in Scotland – £1400 for every primary pupil needing extra support and £900 for every secondary pupil.

In a debate on climate change this morning, the conference is expected to back a motion calling on the Scottish Parliament which will be elected in May to maintain a complete moratorium on planning permission and licensing for fracking and unconventional gas extraction in Scotland for the next parliamentary term to allow for a full assessment of the risks involved and long-term implications of the controversial process.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Mr Rennie said: “We think Scotland has been one of the best countries in the world for education, climate change and our police force. But in recent years, all that has declined.

“We used to have one of the best education systems, but it’s now slipping down the world ranking; we have world-beating climate change targets that we’ve missed year after year; we had a police force which would train forces in different parts of the world, but it has been in disarray. We want to get Scotland back up to being the best.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com