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Watch: Willie Rennie stands down as Scottish Liberal Democrat leader


By David Porter

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Scottish Liberal Democrat's Willie Rennie is to stand down as leader of the party after 10 years.

The North East Fife MSP has led the party through a total of eleven election and referendum campaigns since taking up the role 2011.

Now the MSP says it is "time for a fresh face" to take the party forward.

Having originally started out as a campaign manager for the party, Mr Rennie became an MP in 2006 when he beat the Labour candidate in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election.

Although he lost the seat in 2010, he was elected to Holyrood in 2011 as a list MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife - and was swiftly elected as the party's leader after the resignation of Tavish Scott.

He subsequently took the North East Fife seat from the SNP in the 2016 election which however saw the party drop to fifth place at Holyrood behind the Scottish Greens.

While he held his own seat with an increased majority in the 2021 contest, the Lib Dems fell to just four seats in the Scottish Parliament.

Announcing his resignation which will now trigger a leadership contest. Mr Rennie said the party had "championed the case for better mental health services, world class schools and investment for early years education.

He continued: "Scotland deserves a strong progressive alternative to the twin nationalisms represented by the SNP and Conservatives.

"They polarise and divide Scotland when we should unite to overcome the enormous challenges we face, from Covid-19 to climate change to the inequalities that continue to stain our society.

"But it is time for a fresh face to lead our party forward. The new leader will have my full support in writing the next bright chapter of the Scottish Liberal Democrats' story."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among those who paid tribute to Mr Rennie following the announcement, posting her "best wishes" on Twitter.

She said: "Despite our political disagreements, I've always respected his commitment and decency.

"Political leadership takes its toll and after ten years at the helm of his party, I'm sure he is looking forward to new challenges."

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said Mr Rennie had led his party "with humour, positivity, energy and compassion."


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