Formed in 2012 the Scottish Libertarian Party is separate from the Libertarian Party UK and with good reason. Being both pro-Brexit and pro-Independence for Scotland, gives the party a key different priority. Tam Laird the party leader is a former infantry soldier and lives in Edinburgh. We speak to Tam about the campaign for liberty in Scotland.
Tam thanks for giving us your time…
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming the leader of the Scottish Libertarian Party?
I think probably my journey from Authoritarian to Libertarian is a more interesting story, but let’s not answer a question I wasn’t asked. At the beginning of my association with the Scottish Libertarians I had no interest in joining let alone hold office. That’s not a reflection on the movement it’s an indication of my attitude towards politics in general. Completely disillusioned, agnostic and cynical. It seemed no matter who I voted for, I ended up with the government and government is a cancer. So I hadn’t even voted for about 16 years. I was convinced by John Watson, who was Secretary at the time, to stand in a local by election. It seemed to me it was not so much about gaining votes as it was a good way of getting the libertarian free market message out. I was elected Deputy Leader soon after and was Deputy when I stood in the Edinburgh Central constituency against Ruth Davidson in the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2016. After that election, due to his extensive overseas business commitments our previous Leader was persuaded to step aside and I was voted in.
Could you in a couple of sentences tell our readers about the party?
We are a party of principle committed to free markets, free speech and individual rights and liberties. Accordingly we believe that self-determination is a fundamental individual right. For more information on policy and our full constitution check out our website.
The party is pro Scottish independence. What drives this and what sort of Scotland would you like to see once independent?
Echoing my previous answer, it’s not just a matter of Scottish Independence. What drives it is our belief in the right to self-determination all the way down to the individual. We support English independence. If Yorkshire, Cornwall or even Milton Keynes wanted to be independent we’d support it. Whether it’s a good idea or not is a matter for those constituents. What we’d like to see is a Scotland that absolutely protects the individual rights and liberties of each person. In fairness that’s a long way from what the Scottish National Party (or as I call them Sturgeon’s Notionalist Party) is even capable of delivering if they had the will. Which they don’t. It’s worth mentioning that there are many party members who fear Scottish Independence as a precursor to an authoritarian socialist state under the SNP. I respect that, and those individuals are free to vote accordingly.
The Scottish government’s budget deficit and what currency an independent Scotland would use were major questions from the independence referendum. How would your party address these?
I think the first step is to reduce the tax burden on individuals and business. In tandem public spending has to be cut back massively. Starting from the top. It’s pretty pointless cutting back on subsidies to the vulnerable in society if you are going to give out generous corporate welfare to the likes of Amazon. Unfortunately the SNP have convinced many Scots, especially the young, that free education, healthcare, housing are all God given rights. That’s tough to roll back.
I think the currency issue is a bit of a red herring. We can use any currency we like. We can use Rupees if we like provided someone else will take them. The issue, I suppose, is the currency of ‘last resort’ but it’s not an issue that can’t be solved with a will do so. A good start would be to NOT have a Central bank. Have competing currencies on a national level exactly the same as we have it on an international level. Anyone who wishes should be able to start a bank and issue their own currency. It’s called a free market.
We have now left the EU and are in the transition period. How do you think Brexit is going and what position would you like to see us in with the EU come 1st January 2021?
I think the way Theresa May handled it was a shambles. Which is to be expected as she was not a believer in it. It should have been No Deal = Good Deal from square one. The way the opposition parties handled it was nothing short of disgraceful and even treasonous. I hope by January 21 the EU is a distant memory. May it implode from within and die a horrible wasting death.
You ran in the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections in Edinburgh Central. How did you find the experience, and do you have any interesting stories from the campaign trail?
It was an interesting, and slightly surreal experience. It couldn’t have been that bad as I’m determined to do it again in 2021. I’d advise anyone running to go to the count and keep an eye on the adjudication of “spoiled ballots”. I spotted about 6 that were absolutely fine and couldn’t get to the bottom of how they ended up in the spoiled ballot pile. Before heading onto the platform for the return results, I jokingly quipped to Ruth Davidson that it wasn’t too late to join the SLP. She replied that “there’s a libertarian streak in us all”. I hope she makes it a wee bit wider next time. It would be nice to be able to see it manifest. I won’t hold my breath.
What’s your party’s plan for fighting elections and getting the message of liberty out to the electorate?
We plan to fight as many council and parliamentary by elections as we can. The former cost very little or nothing, and get the party name on the ballot papers. We also plan to field as many candidates as possible in the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2021.(Provided it goes ahead in view of Covid) Ideally I’d like to fill all the regional lists and additionally have a candidate in at least four key high profile constituencies.
In a hustings for the 2019 general election you said “Well okay, I can only speak within my own family. I know some people in my family who use food banks and they’re at it. And that’s just a fact”. “But I do think the answer to poverty is more jobs.” How did that go down in the hall, and with your family?
Could have worded that one better. But I stick by it. In fairness I was referring to extended family. Haven’t had anything back, but then getting upset would be tantamount to admitting you were the guilty party. I think there was a some incredulity in the hall, but I articulated what a lot of people know and think but won’t say. The Daily Record appeared to try and do a hit piece, but if so it backfired as most of the feedback I got was positive.
Other than Independence and Brexit, if you could introduce, repeal or change 3 laws what would they be?
I’m not keen on introducing laws, but I guess a law prohibiting government from using force or coercion to collect taxes would be a start. Also laws prohibiting government from interfering in private life and business. Provided there is no harm, injury or loss. If so it’s a matter for the police, not the government. I’d repeal any laws that infringed on the right to freedom of association. It’s difficult, because what you really are asking is what I would do if I was an absolute monarch. The reality in a democratic system is it’s almost impossible to get things done without a huge majority Even then it’s tenuous. As we have seen with the Brexit farce that played out over two years.
Lastly how do you think the governments of both the UK and Scotland are handling the Covid-19 crisis, and what would you like to be done to help the eventual economic recovery?
I think the governments are handling the crisis as only government can. Disastrously. I think Boris had the right idea at the start, then he did a Thatcher and blinked. Look, I’m not an expert epidemiologist, but many who are have questioned the wisdom and efficacy of the lockdown. I agree with them. I think in the end the economic fallout will be far more devastating than the virus itself. What would I do? I think I’d have started by not promising mass bailouts to everyone. Also I wouldn’t have allowed an economy to become so bankrupt that it couldn’t survive this crisis. I’m not optimistic about the outcome. There’s nothing the government is even planning to do that can put this right.
Perhaps we could start by telling Richard Branson to sod off?
The Scottish Libertarian party can be found online at http://scottishlibertarians.com/, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/PartyScottish, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ScottishLibertarians/.