Scottish election 2021: Willie Rennie reveals proudest moment in politics was banning driving instructors convicted of sexual offences

Willie Rennie has revealed his proudest moment in politics was passing a bill banning driving instructors convicted of sexual offences.

Speaking to The Scotsman in the fourth part of our exclusive election video series, On The HolyRoad, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader shared his pride at fixing a loophole in the law.

Mr Rennie is defending the North East Fife constituency seat at next month’s Scottish Parliament election after winning it from the SNP in 2016.

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Speaking in Cupar while on an afternoon run, Mr Rennie explained while he was proud of his election successes, it was one piece of legislation that he felt most proud of.

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie takes his mark against Westminster correspondent Alexander Brown. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

He said: “[It’s] a tiny bit of legislation that may seem inconsequential, but I think it’s changed the lives of particularly young women, who are learning to drive.

“There was a constituent of mine, who I represent at the other end of Fife. She came to me and said ‘I was sexually assaulted by my driving instructor’. He was prosecuted, but he was out teaching another young woman the very same day.

“We investigated, we researched, we worked with the department of transport and we got the hole in the legalisation plugged.

“Now I think young women, in particular, are safer when they are learning to drive, that affects hundreds of thousands of people.

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie speaks to Westminster correspondent Alexander Brown

“[A] tiny bit of legislation, quite a significant loophole.”

The legislation was passed in 2008 while Mr Rennie was the MP for Dunfermline and West Fife.

It read: “To make provision for the immediate suspension from the Register of Approved Driving Instructors of driving instructors convicted of sexual offences; and for connected purposes”.

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The bill sailed through the Commons, passing at a first reading.

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie takes his mark against Westminster correspondent Alexander Brown. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Mr Rennie also explained his tendency to be involved in bizarre photo opportunities.

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The Lib Dem leader has been punched by a dog, grappled a ram, gone down children’s slides or been snapped with an oversized deck chair.

He explained: “I don’t take myself too seriously – too many politicians do.

“I like to laugh. Politicians are a bit stuffy sometimes, I like to break through that and to get people to talk to me.

“That’s what politics is all about being able to connect to people, relate to their concerns and sort it out.

“I always take my politics seriously.”

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The 53-year-old also laughed when confronted with the possibility his party would not win the election on May 6, but insisted more Liberal Democrat MSPs could make a difference.

He said: “I’m a strong advocate for mental health services. We’ve got 15,000 young people waiting over a year for treatment, 5,000 adults.

"It needs to be tackled. We’ve got a comprehensive plan for mental health recovery.

“The NHS, we need to create new centres for treatment on cancer. We haven’t met the cancer waiting times target since 2013. That’s not acceptable.”

Pointing to jobs, Mr Rennie also warned not enough wind turbines were being built in Scotland.

He said: “A lot of them are being built on the other side of the planet. They need to be being built here, using Scottish workers.”

Mr Rennie also hit out at independence, saying it would mean “lost opportunity” and damage to the area he represents.

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He explained: "The impact on this part of the world would be significant.

"You’ve got the university, one of the most international institutions you can imagine, attracts people from right across the globe, staff come from right across the world.

"If you knock on doors in St Andrews, you’ll come across a Brazilian in one door, someone who has lived in St Andrews, an American, and then someone from Spain.

“It’s an international place, then we’ve got the military base just down the road, then we’ve got some rich agricultural land, some of the best produce is made here, whether it’s cattle produce, scotch porridge oats, berry fields.

"All of that is great economic value right now and employs thousands of people.

"All of that is something we need to cherish rather than risk independence. Let’s make the most of what we’ve got.”

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