Scotland politics

Scottish council election: Lib Dems launch council campaign

Willie Rennie launches the campaign
Image caption Mr Rennie launched the Lib Dem campaign in Inverness

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has launched his party's council election campaign with a focus on jobs and the economy.

He said the Lib Dems were also committed to caring for the young and old, as well as the environment.

The party is hoping to bounce back in the 3 May poll, following a poor result at the last Holyrood election.

Mr Rennie said the Scottish Lib Dems were proud to stand on a record of achievement in local government.

He set out his priorities for the future at an event in Inverness, where the party beat Labour to win a council by-election in November.

The Lib Dems are launching a series of local manifestoes for different council areas, rather than a single, national one.

Mr Rennie said his party had four big priorities in local government over the next five years.

"A key one is creating jobs," he said.

Mr Rennie said another was the environment and meeting climate change obligations.

"And if you look at the demographic changes, people are getting much older and living for much longer - and that puts quite a lot of pressure on local councils.

"Finally, on early intervention, we need to make sure kids from all kinds of backgrounds are getting the support they need," he said.

Mr Rennie said the Lib Dems, who have been involved in 13 council administrations across Scotland, had a good record of achievement, including praise for financial and economic performance in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

He said his party had also seen jobs created in Edinburgh and were responsible for recycling rates "shooting up" in Fife.

At the same time, Mr Rennie questioned his opponents' commitment to giving more power to local areas, citing their support for single, national police and fire services.

He said: "The others will say they are in favour of local decision-making, but when you look at their record, they are centralising control in Edinburgh."

The Lib Dem leader also said the SNP had "let the cat out of the bag" by treating success in the council elections as a stepping-stone to independence.

Mr Rennie said he also felt voters were willing to back his party once again.

At the last Holyrood election, the number of Lib Dem MSPs dropped from 16 to five, as the SNP cashed in on a collapse in the party's vote on its way to winning an overall majority in the parliament.

Despite this, Mr Rennie has defended his party's coalition with the Tories at Westminster, saying the partnership had brought in policies such as cutting tax for low-earners and delivering more powers to Holyrood through the Scotland Bill.

He said: "It was bad last year, but the mood has changed.

"We've got an awful lot more people prepared to listen, especially because it's a local election, where they recognise it's about choosing a champion for their area."