The Scottish Liberal Democrats have ended 2009 very strongly and can look forward with confidence to 2010, which will be one of the most momentous in politics for generations.
In the last month of the year our candidate Ashay Ghai gained the Bearsden South council seat from the Conservatives. It added to the gain of the Conservatives’ fourth safest seat in Scotland earlier in the year by Rosemary Bruce in a fantastic win in Aboyne and Deeside.
Hundreds of people have joined the Scottish Liberal Democrats this year. Our recruitment at universities has been record-breaking. We lead the debate on the campuses of Scotland. And the growing numbers of Liberal Youth members in Scotland are playing an ever larger – and very welcome - part in our work.
We know there must be a General Election in 2010. But nobody knows how that will end or when, exactly, it will be. The polls are all over the place. But they all show the Liberal Democrats in a stronger position in the run up to an election than we have been for generations.
We are the challengers to Labour across Scotland. We have well-resourced target seats that are campaigning harder than ever. We have inspiring candidates who deserve to be part of the new House of Commons. And the choice facing the country at the time of economic recession and the failure of old politics means it has never been more important to break the red-blue-blue-red pendulum of British politics.
Our plans for a fairer society and a sustainable economy have never been clearer. We will take the low paid out of income tax, cut tax bills for middle earners and stop the very richest in the land using loopholes to avoid their fair share. We will reform politics, not least to end an electoral system that has created a culture of a “seat for life” and “winner takes all” that has led so many MPs to exploit the system for their own gain.
We will build a sustainable economy, creating jobs and opportunity for the record number of young unemployed. We will avoid creating a lost generation of young people, as Mrs Thatcher did in the 1980s. Her mistakes squandered the chances of thousands of people. The legacy remains. Poll after poll shows that most Scots still think that the Conservatives are the party for the well off not ordinary people.
In Scotland we have set the political pace on our campaign for a fairer society. We are winning the argument that there needs to be restraint on the pay and bonuses on those at the very top of the public sector in order to keep jobs and services going for those at the bottom of the income scale.
I know that our council by-election gains from all parties in 2009 will be followed by Westminster gains in 2010.
I look forward to working with you to make it happen.
A very Happy New Year.