Willie Rennie

For the recipient of the Victoria Cross, see William Rennie.
Willie Rennie
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Assumed office
17 May 2011
Deputy Alistair Carmichael
Preceded by Tavish Scott
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for North East Fife
Assumed office
6 May 2016
Preceded by Roderick Campbell
Majority 3,465
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Mid Scotland and Fife
In office
5 May 2011  24 March 2016
Member of Parliament
for Dunfermline and West Fife
In office
9 February 2006  12 April 2010
Preceded by Rachel Squire
Succeeded by Thomas Docherty
Personal details
Born William Cowan Rennie
(1967-09-27) 27 September 1967
Fife, Scotland, UK
Citizenship United Kingdom
Nationality British
Political party Scottish Liberal Democrats
Spouse(s) Janet Rennie (m. 1992-)
Children 2 sons
Alma mater Paisley College of Technology
Occupation Self-employed consultant

William Cowan "Willie" Rennie (born 27 September 1967) is a Scottish politician and current Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats after he succeeded the post in May 2011.

After college, Rennie spent most of his early career as a Liberal Democrat election campaigner and official before working as a public relations consultant in the private sector. He became the Member of Parliament (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 but was subsequently appointed in the same month by the newly formed UK Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition as a Special Government Adviser working successively for the Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretaries of State Danny Alexander MP and Michael Moore MP at the Scotland Office.[1]

He later resigned from his special adviser role in June 2010 to stand for the Scottish Parliament in the May 2011 elections. Despite the overall collapse of the party in the election, he was elected as an additional member for the Mid Scotland and Fife region with 5.9% of the regional list vote.[2] He was soon after elected unopposed as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrat party, replacing Tavish Scott.

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.[3] He is a keen runner and is a member of Dunfermline's Carnegie Harriers. 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[4] finishing close behind the winner, David Davies.

Early political career: 1990–2001

While a student at the Paisley College of Technology he was depute 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.

He then went on to work for the Liberal Democrats' campaigns department, and was the successful agent in the 1993 Christchurch by-election in Dorset.

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 1,800 to win the seat with a swing to his party of 16.24%.[5] In the House of Commons, he was a member of the Liberal Democrat shadow defence 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).

In the General Election of 6 May 2010, Rennie lost his seat to the Labour candidate Thomas Docherty.

Special Adviser and consultant: 2010–2011

He was then for a time Special Adviser to the new Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretary Michael Moore MP.

Elected MSP and Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats: 2011–present

Rennie speaking in 2013

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.[6]

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 is passed into statute.[7][8]

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.[9]

Career timeline


Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Rachel Squire
Member of Parliament for Dunfermline and West Fife
Succeeded by
Thomas Docherty
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tavish Scott
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
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