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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Divers at Bouldnor Cliff underwater site in the Solent off the Isle of Wight, where the silt sample containing the einkorn DNA was found
life
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower