Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron was met with a mixed reception as he conducted a campaign event in St Andrews today. Mr Farron, joined by Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie, and a group of Liberal Democrat activists, walked from the fountain in Market Street down to the Purdie Building on the North Haugh, in order to speak to locals and students of St Andrews. Some of those he spoke to, such as second year Fergus McCullough, seemed impressed by the Liberal Democrat Leader. Mr McCullough said: “I thought [he] was very straightforward in his answers, a clear communicator. He put forward why he thought I should vote Lib Dem here to support the union, as it’s a two horse race. Very amenable and pleasant.”
Others seemed less appreciative of the Liberal Democrat leader’s message. One local woman, who prefered to remain nameless, said that the Liberal Democrats “have denigrated local politics, have denigrated national politics, and don’t care about Scotland.” She attributes this to the decision of the Liberal Democrats to go into coalition with David Cameron’s Conservative Government in 2010. Another woman simply shouted at Mr Farron and Mr Rennie that they should “stop blocking the traffic.”
Some St Andrews students, largely drawn from the St Andrews University Conservative Association, seemed even more hostile towards Mr Farron’s message. STAUCA member Drew Liquerman displayed a sign to the press that were accompanying Mr Farron reading: “Be Lib and Dem, support the will of the people, 52% voted Leave.” The sign protested the Liberal Democrat’s call for a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.
Mr Liquerman was quickly blocked by Liberal Democrat members holding Liberal Democrat posters. Another student, Lavie Rabinowitz, stood next to Mr Liquerman with a homemade sign reading “Don’t listen to him, he voted Trump.”
Moments later, Mr Farron was drawn into a debate with three STAUCA members in the middle of Market Street, leading to a sharp exchange of views which was picked up and broadcast live by ITV News as part of their General Election Coverage.
Ian Donnell, STAUCA President and part of the trio confronting Mr Farron, tells The Stand: “I took an opportunity to ask Tim Farron why he felt he had a mandate to derail the democratic will of the people in the Brexit process when he only had 8 MPs and the choice was so clearly set out on the ballot paper. Leave means leave, but Tim Farron didn’t think so. Despite Britain self governing for centuries, he felt we needed a dossier to describe how this would look prior to the EU referendum. Mr Farron thinks more referenda are necessary, rather than strong and stable leadership to lead us out of the EU.”
Despite the somewhat stormy reception, the student activists accompanying Mr Farron seemed reasonably upbeat. James Green, Liberal Democrat activist and third year German & Persian student, said that he was inspired to campaign for the Lib Dems because of “their excellent mental health policies and the fact they’re the only party willing to defend both Unions.” He also claimed that Mr Farron’s party was the only one willing to stand up for students.