Two more MSPs join the Liberal Democrats' leadership contest

TWO senior Liberal Democrat MSPs, Tavish Scott and Ross Finnie, will today announce they are to stand for the leadership of their party.

Mr Scott and Mr Finnie will join Mike Rumbles – the maverick MSP who was defeated in the last leadership contest back in 2005 – in the race to succeed Nicol Stephen, who resigned last week.

Mr Scott is the clear favourite to be elected leader and he will concentrate on the economy in his campaign.

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He will announce his candidacy from Shetland and launch it formally in Edinburgh next week.

Sources close to Mr Scott, the former transport minister, said yesterday: "People are hurting out there and Tavish wants to make this a campaign about the impact that the economy is having on people and families."

Mr Finnie, the former rural development minister, will declare his desire to replace Mr Stephen by making it clear that he wants the electorate to know exactly what his party stands for.

Mr Finnie is heading off on holiday today and will announce his candidacy from his home in Greenock before he leaves. He said yesterday he believed the Liberal Democrats had adapted to opposition better than Labour but the party was still too reactive in the way it approached its politics.

He said: "Far too many people ask the question – what are the Liberal Democrats about? We have to be talking in more modern language about what we stand for."

The party's opposition to an independence referendum is already turning into one of the main issues of this leadership campaign.

Mr Finnie said he was not completely against having a referendum on crucial issues but did not believe that a referendum on independence was necessary.

He said that there should, however, be a referendum on the findings of the Calman Commission into the powers of the parliament, because that commission was backed by a majority of the MSPs in the parliament.

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Nominations for the leadership have to be submitted to party managers by noon on 24 July.

After that date, voting papers will be sent out to all Liberal Democrat members in Scotland with the result announced after the election closes at noon on 26 August.