Danny Alexander hails Lib Dems' record

 

Liberal Democrats have won "real economic credibility" and should be proud of their achievements in the coalition Government, chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said today.

In a defiant opening speech to the party's spring conference in Inverness, Mr Alexander underlined the Lib Dems' role in shaping UK economic policy.

The Highlands MP urged the party faithful to ignore opponents, adding: "Be proud because we are delivering big changes that are making a real difference to the lives of people in every corner of the United Kingdom.

"Ignore our opponents. We have nothing to apologise for, and a record to shout about."

Mr Alexander highlighted investment in broadband, efforts to save cross-border sleeper train services, a cut to fuel costs and changes to the income tax threshold.

Looking to the next general election, he told the conference he wants to push ahead with a pledge to raise the tax bar further from £10,000 to £12,500.

Mr Alexander, speaking at the Eden Court theatre, criticised his political opponents north and south of the Scottish border.

He said the first priority is to clean up Labour's "mess".

"Our plan has real credibility. It is keeping our interest rates at record lows, helping keep people in their homes, businesses in funds," he said.

"We can see from other countries the catastrophic damage done when governments don't have, or stick to, a clear and credible plan.

"That's not to say everyone agrees.

"Labour wants a plan B - more borrowing and debt. The B could be for Balls or Berlusconi, same difference.

"The SNP wants a plan MacB. They should have called it plan Mac-tripleB, because that's what it would do to our country's credit rating.

"Neither of them has economic credibility. We do."

He said there are strict limits to what he can say on tax with just weeks before the UK Budget.

Mr Alexander criticised the SNP for trying to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK, and suggested that they are doing this both politically and logistically.

He accused the Scottish Government of an ideologically driven attempt "to undermine the Caledonian sleeper".

He said: "The £50 million we offered shamed Alex Salmond and the SNP into more than matching it, and over the coming years we will see the most substantial investment this vital link has seen for decades.

"Yes, it shows what Scotland's two governments can deliver when they work together."

He added: "Now we need to stop the SNP's ideological attempt to cut off the north of Scotland's direct rail links to London in the daytime."

He said Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond is "a former banker still going around hawking a get rich quick scheme for the people of Scotland that we know won't work".

He added: "Mr Salmond was recently endorsed by (News Corporation chairman) Rupert Murdoch. I'm told he promised him 'the Sun will come out every day if you vote for separation'.

"This is the most serious debate for our nation's future for decades, possibly ever.

"We were right to bring the referendum issue to a head in January, and (Scottish Secretary) Michael Moore has played a blinder, his patience and reason winning the argument in recent weeks.

"In the coming months, we will be working with others to set out the positive economic case for the United Kingdom.

"But the extended uncertainty the SNP want is in itself damaging Scotland. As Scottish and Southern Electricity (SSE) pointed out last week, real investments in our vital renewables sector is being held back.

"And their fears are echoed by many businesses in many sectors across Scotland and beyond by international investors."

Last week, SSE published its response to the referendum consultations currently under way at Holyrood and Westminster, and stated that the referendum "does not mean that SSE will not invest in projects in Scotland while its future is being determined".

However, it said it has "no alternative" but to take "the additional risk of regulatory and legislative change" into account in making final investment decisions.

Mr Alexander went on to once again criticise the timing of the Scottish independence referendum, with the SNP lining up the "possible" date of October 18, 2014.

Mr Alexander said: "I really don't see why we have to wait until a Saturday in the school holidays in October 2014 to answer the single question - separation, Yes or No?

"The referendum could easily be organised next year, and there would be plenty of time to have a full debate.

"The timing of the referendum should not be dictated by the SNP's political interest, but by Scotland's national interest."

Mr Alexander also criticised the Scottish Government demand for devolution of the Crown Estate, which controls the UK's coastal revenues.

He said: "We have established a new coastal communities fund, so that for the first time those areas can share in the benefit that the Crown Estate receives from our marine resources.

"Not devolved to Edinburgh to be lost in some central fund - but made available to the communities themselves, from this April onwards."

The Lib Dems appeared to suffer a backlash for entering a coalition with the Conservatives at Westminster when Scotland went to the polls last year. Just five MSPs were returned to the Scottish Parliament.

The party failed to win any first-past-the-post Holyrood constituencies on the mainland, prompting Shetland MSP Tavish Scott to step down as Scottish leader.

He was replaced by newly elected MSP Willie Rennie, who previously served for about four years as MP for Dunfermline and West Fife.

In his conference speech today, Mr Alexander said: "Willie and his team are making a big mark on the Scottish Parliament, even if their numbers are small."

He added: "Thank goodness for Willie Rennie, who is the strongest, clearest and most powerful opposition voice in the Scottish Parliament. Thank goodness for his strong liberal voices in Holyrood."

Other speakers on day one of the three-day conference include Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Business Secretary Vince Cable.

The Deputy Prime Minister has pledged to expand on plans for a "green economic renaissance" while offering "practical help" through taxation.

PA

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Arts and Entertainment
A shared vision: Cerys Matthews has been familiarising herself with Dylan Thomas’s material, for a revealing radio programme
arts + entsA singer, her uncle and a special relationship with Dylan Thomas
News
In other news ... Jon Snow performed at last year's Newsroom's Got Talent charity event
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?