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Coronavirus crisis can lead to change for the better in politics, claims Rennie

© PAcoronavirus
MSPs social distancing with every second seat removed at Holyrood

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has said he hopes the coronavirus pandemic will lead to a change for the better in politics.

He told the PA news agency he has enjoyed unprecedented co-operation from the Scottish Government, something he hopes carries on as the Holyrood election looms.

All opposition parties pledged to put party politics aside during the coronavirus outbreak, instead focusing on responding to the pandemic.

Mr Rennie said Scottish ministers have been “much more open than I’ve known in nine years in the Scottish Parliament”.

He said the Scottish Government has been “prepared to listen, prepared to change”.

“It’s a different way of doing politics, which I have to say I’ve found more enjoyable”, he said.

“Because you can actually make a bit of progress on some really important issues.”

The Scottish Lib Dem leader said there has been a chance to put aside arguments over Scottish independence and “respond to the needs of the country”.

He said: “The old arguments around the constitution were just getting a bit tiring and it would be great to have a common effort.”

Mr Rennie said his party “did not have a lot to disagree with” on parts of the domestic agendas of the Labour Party and SNP, adding: “It would be great to have a new look at how we work across the parliament and just get away from this – seems like decades-long – constitutional battle over whether Scotland should be independent or not.”

He added: “There is perhaps just a chance that new relationships will be formed across the parties, to break down old divisions so that we can work together.”

While he said there had been mistakes in the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, he added that there would have been little difference in the approach taken by opposition parties.

He said: “Who wouldn’t make mistakes if you’re making decisions this quickly, under extraordinary pressure on so many fronts?

“You’ve got to give them a bit of slack and work with them to help improve: help to be their eyes and ears and make constructive suggestions, as we have.

“I’m not going to adopt the approaches that some others have done and say it’s outrageous that they haven’t fixed this, that or the other.”

The Lib Dem leader pointed to a “disagreement” he had with the First Minister over the expansion of testing in care homes to include all symptomatic residents and staff – a position later adopted by the Scottish Government.

He said: “I pursued her for a couple of weeks, spoke to officials behind the scene and I’m glad that this week she came forward with a scheme that will expand that for care homes, including testing for all new residents.”