William Cowan Rennie (born 27 September 1967), also known as Willie Rennie, is a Scottish politician serving as Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats since 2011. He has served as the Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for North East Fife since 2016, and previously as MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife (from 2011 to 2016) and as Member of Parliament (MP) for Dunfermline and West Fife (from 2006 to 2010).
Rennie in 2016
|Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats|
|Assumed office |
17 May 2011
|Preceded by||Tavish Scott|
|Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Scotland|
21 August 2019 – 6 January 2020
Serving with Jamie Stone
Sir Ed Davey & Brinton/Pack
|Preceded by||Christine Jardine|
|Succeeded by||Wendy Chamberlain|
|Member of the Scottish Parliament|
for North East Fife
|Assumed office |
6 May 2016
|Preceded by||Roderick Campbell|
|Member of the Scottish Parliament|
for Mid Scotland and Fife
5 May 2011 – 24 March 2016
|Preceded by||Ted Brocklebank|
|Succeeded by||Alexander Stewart|
|Member of Parliament|
for Dunfermline and West Fife
9 February 2006 – 12 April 2010
|Preceded by||Rachel Squire|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Docherty|
William Cowan Rennie
27 September 1967
Fife, Scotland, UK
|Political party||Scottish Liberal Democrats|
|Spouse(s)||Janet Rennie (1992–present)|
|Alma mater||Paisley College of Technology|
After college, Rennie was a Liberal Democrat election campaigner and official before working as a public relations consultant in the private sector. He became the MP for Dunfermline and West Fife after a by-election win in February 2006. He later lost this seat to Labour in the May 2010 UK general election. He briefly served as a Special Government Adviser for the Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretaries of State Danny Alexander MP and Michael Moore MP at the Scotland Office.
He was then elected to the Scottish Parliament in the May 2011 election. He was elected as an additional member for the Mid Scotland and Fife region. He was soon after elected unopposed as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, replacing Tavish Scott. Since the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, Rennie has held the constituency seat of North East Fife.
Early life and education
Rennie was born in Fife and grew up in Strathmiglo, where his family ran the village shop and still live today. His mother was secretary of the local community association and his grandfather was the local Minister.
Rennie went to Bell Baxter High School in Cupar, Fife, before going to Paisley College of Technology, where he graduated with a B.Sc. degree in Biology. After that, he received a Diploma in Industrial Administration at Glasgow College.
Rennie lives in Kelty with his wife Janet and their two sons, Alexander and Stephen. He is a keen runner and is a member of Dunfermline's PH Racing Club. He was also runner-up in the 2006 Scottish Coal-Carrying Championships held in Kelty. Rennie was one of the 50 MPs who ran a mile to raise money for Sport Relief finishing close behind the winner, David Davies.
Early political career: 1990–2001
While a student at the Paisley College of Technology he was deputy president of the student union. Rennie ran the Scottish Young Liberal Democrats (later reformed as Liberal Youth Scotland) and after graduation went on to work for the English Liberal Democrats in Cornwall.
After managing the party's campaigns in the South West England region, securing the return of a sizeable number of new MPs in the 1997 General Election, he moved back to Scotland where he was Chief Executive of the Scottish Liberal Democrats from 1997 to 1999, and then the party's Chief of Staff in the new Scottish Parliament from 1999–2001.
McEwan Purvis: 2001–2006
From 2001 to 2006 he worked for the small Scottish communications firm McEwan Purvis as an account director helping advise businesses and charities such as the Royal Society of Chemistry and Asthma UK. During his time at McEwan Purvis, Rennie was a press adviser to Fife Council's Liberal Democrat Opposition Group and a member of the Dunfermline Focus editorial team, working with Dunfermline's Lib Dem councillors on local issues.
Member of Parliament: 2006–2010
After the Labour MP Rachel Squire died, Rennie stood in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election on 9 February 2006 and overturned a Labour majority of 11,800 to win the seat with a swing to his party of 16.24%. In the House of Commons, he was a member of the Liberal Democrat defence spokesperson team, chair of their parliamentary campaigns unit, and a member of the Commons Defence Select Committee.
During his time as an MP, he campaigned on local constituency issues such as abolishing the bridge tolls, changing the law to protect female learner drivers from sex offenders, improvements to cancer services at Queen Margaret Hospital, and local jobs (including at Longannet Power Station and Rosyth Dockyard).
Special Adviser and consultant: 2010–2011
Elected MSP and Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats: 2011–present
Willie Rennie returned to front-line politics as an MSP when he won a regional list seat for the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament's Mid Scotland and Fife region at the Holyrood elections on 5 May 2011. He was the only new Liberal Democrat MSP to win a seat in this election.
After the resignation of the Scottish Liberal Democrats's leader Tavish Scott, Willie Rennie stood in the resulting leadership election. He was the only candidate to be nominated, and was declared elected when the nominations closed on 17 May. He vowed to stand up to the "SNP bulldozer" majority, and refused to distance his party from the UK Liberal Democrats.
In the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, the Liberal Democrats again elected five MSPs, while gaining two constituency seats and holding their existing two with increased majorities. Rennie was elected in North East Fife, gaining it from the SNP with a 9.5% swing.
Home Rule commission plan
In September 2011, Willie Rennie announced plans for a commission building on the work of 2006 Lord Steel Commission to develop a blueprint for Home Rule and full fiscal federalism that would map out further devolution of powers after the Scotland Bill 2011 was passed into statute.
Armed Forces Legal Action
Willie Rennie was appointed as an honorary patron of Armed Forces Legal Action (AFLA) in April 2014. AFLA is a network of UK law firms committed to offering discounted legal services to members of the UK Armed Forces community. AFLA was founded by Scottish solicitor and former Scottish Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, Allan Steele, WS.
- 1979–1985: Bell Baxter High School
- 1985–1989: Paisley College
- 1989–1990: Glasgow College
- 1990–1997: Liberal Democrats Campaigns Department (South West England region)
- 1997–1999: Chief Executive of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
- 1999–2001: Parliamentary Party Chief of Staff, Scottish Liberal Democrats
- 2001–2006: consultant, shareholder, director and account manager at McEwan Purvis, a public/media relations consultancy
- Press adviser to Liberal Democrat Fife Council Opposition Group
- February 2006 – May 2010: MP for Dunfermline and West Fife
- Chairman of the Liberal Democrats Campaigns and Communications Committee (appointed in 2007–2010 Frontbench Team of Nick Clegg)
- Defence spokesperson (Liberal Democrat Frontbench Team, 2006–2007, 2007–2010)
- Member of the Commons Defence Select Committee (2006–2008)
- appointed as a Parliamentary Whip in 2008
- May–June 2010: Special Adviser at the Scotland Office to the Secretary of State for Scotland, Danny Alexander MP and latterly Michael Moore MP
- August 2010 – 2011: Self-employed communications consultant
- May 2011: elected as MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife
- May 2011: elected Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
- May 2016: elected as MSP for North East Fife
- "BBC News – David Cameron's PR director Andy Coulson paid 拢140,000". BBC News.
- Victor Clements. "Perth and Kinross Liberal Democrats". perthlibdems.blogspot.com. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011.
- "Error messages – The Courier – At the heart of Tayside and Fife". thecourier.co.uk. Archived from the original on 17 May 2011.
- Welsh glory as MPs run a mile for charity
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 December 2006. Retrieved 23 March 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "BBC News – Willie Rennie named new Scottish Lib Dem leader". BBC News. Archived from the original on 29 August 2011.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 November 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "BBC News – Scottish Lib Dems to set up new powers commission". BBC News. Archived from the original on 20 September 2011.
- "AFLA". AFLA. Archived from the original on 28 May 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2014.