Alex Cole-Hamilton and Ming Campbell honoured at Scottish Politician of the Year Awards

New Lib Dem Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton won the “One to watch” award at the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards, presented at a glittering awards ceremony in Edinburgh.

He was also praised by his predecessor, Margaret Smith:

From The Herald:

With one third of MSPs new to Holyrood this year, the largest field was in the One to Watch category, sponsored by ScottishPower Renewables, with the judges impressed by the breadth and depth of talent being attracted to the Parliament as its powers increase.

The winner was the LibDem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton, who gained the Edinburgh Western seat from the SNP and is already tipped as his party’s next leader.

It’s not difficult to see why he won when you see the quality of his debut speech on the European Union

The text follows at the end of the article.

The lifetime achievement award went to former Liberal Democrat Leader and North East Fife MP Lord Campbell of Pittenweem. Again, from the Herald:

The retired MP, who received a standing ovation from an audience which included figures from across the political spectrum, thanked his wife Lady Elspeth Campbell for “tolerating me and my politics for 46 years.

He told the audience: “There was a time when the hair was thicker and and waist was thinner.

“I receive this wonderful award really as a first installment, and I’ll tell you why. Jeremy Thorpe famously described the House of Lords as proof that there’s life after death. Well, there’s plenty of life left in this old dog, I can tell you.”

Presenting the prize, Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said ‘Ming’ as he is affectionately known that he was “respected across the world in politics.”

I suppose the Tories had to get some baubles given their move forward in the Holyrood elections but I really have to question what the judges were thinking when they gave the Best Scot at Westminster award to (at best) mediocre Scottish Secretary David Mundell. I’d have given it to the SNP’s Alison Thewliss for her energetic and persistent campaign against the Government’s controversial, demeaning and unjustifiable “rape clause” whereby any woman wanting to claim tax credits for a third will have to prove in an as yet unspecified way, that she has been raped.

Ruth Davidson won Politician of the Year, which was expected given her very good performance on the Remain side in the EU Referendum – although her party is now hurtling towards the hardest of Brexits and she’s not doing much to stop them.

Here is the full text of Alex Cole Hamilton’s speech:

As I rise to deliver my first speech in the Scottish Parliament, I feel the sense of awe that I have seen on the faces of my fellow newcomers to this place; they have given excellent speeches, both yesterday and this morning.

My journey to this chamber has been a long one, and I am grateful for the kindness of parliamentary staff, journalists and indeed members of all parties for the good will that they have shown me in these first weeks. It has been good will tinged with surprise, I might add, at my appearance here, but that surprise was eclipsed by my own when I was plucked from the ranks of new Liberal Democrat MSPs and immediately promoted to the front bench. That was something of a shock. [Laughter.]

Before I address the substance of the debate, I pay tribute to my immediate predecessor, Colin Keir. He is a kind and generous man and I wish him every success in his future. I also pay tribute to the previous Liberal parliamentarian to represent Edinburgh Western, Margaret Smith. Margaret served in this Parliament for 12 years and delivered many of the changes that brought about free personal care for the elderly. All of us can attest to the honour that it is to represent the great communities of Edinburgh Western. The constituency is steeped in history that goes back to Roman times and it flanks the beautiful fringes of the Forth estuary. It is in the shadow of our own world heritage site: the Forth rail bridge. I am sorry to say that, following my election, the area is no longer available to the SNP for parliamentary group photographs. I am sorry about that.

My first act as a parliamentarian for Edinburgh Western is to make the case that my constituents—and yours, Presiding Officer—are demonstrably better off as part of the European Union. One hundred years ago almost to the day, my great grand-uncle, a private in the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles out of Saskatchewan, at the age of 23, was killed along with 80 per cent of his battalion on the first day of the battle of Mont Sorrel on the Ypres salient. His name was Alexander Bennett and I am named for him. Just a generation later, his sacrifice was met by that of two of my grandfather’s four siblings, who were killed on active service, this time in world war two.

It is a measure of the success of the European project that I am only the second generation in the recorded history of my entire family to never have to contemplate taking up arms against our nearest European neighbours. It is a comfort that I would extend to my three children, Finn, Kit and Darcy, and to theirs to come. It is from the shared desire for a continued and lasting peace that the originating treaties of the European Union emerged. First, there was the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, so that no country could ever again build a war machine, and then there was the treaty of Rome, which led to a single market in which the free movement of goods, people, capital and services has come to represent the most important charter for freedom that the world has ever seen. It is a solidarity of nations that has become a family.

The Brexiteers such as Margaret Mitchell and her colleagues paint a very nice picture of what it would be to reclaim all our sovereignty, but it is a doctrine of isolationism, pure and simple. I put it to you, Presiding Officer, that in this increasingly globalised world, human traffickers will never recognise that isolation. Climate change will not recognise it, and neither will terrorists. If we were to leave, we would be a tiny archipelago of islands adrift in a sea of economic uncertainty. That is why those on the Liberal Democrat benches are so proudly and full-throatedly backing the remain campaign.

I am delighted, and heartily glad, that my first speech is on an issue on which there is such consensus, and that I find myself on common ground not just with those in other Opposition parties but with those on the Government benches. I hope that there are many days like this to come in my parliamentary service because, with consensus, this place can move mountains and it has done so. When I worked in the children’s sector, from outside the chamber I helped to broker a consensus that led to a change in the age of leaving care and that will change lives as a result. However, there will be days of discord, and that is good and right because, as John F Kennedy said, without criticism and debate no Administration can succeed and no republic can survive. It is incumbent on Opposition parties, particularly in a minority Government situation, to challenge and scrutinise, so I will offer that debate and scrutiny. It will at times be fierce, but it will always be reasoned and it will always be Liberal.

However, today, let us put aside those differences and embrace that common ground on which we find ourselves. A sense of real optimism is currently sweeping the Liberal Democrats, and I know that it is sweeping other parties as well, because we have so much to gain by remaining as members of the European Union, so we must gather together to vigorously campaign for a remain vote on 23 June. Thank you.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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One Comment

  • Watching his speech, it struck me as particularly articulate and well-composed, delivered moreover without reference to notes. A rare skill.

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