Alex Cole-Hamilton: Everyone loses if choice is Boris vs Nicola

See, I’ve fixed the problem with the Times headline this morning.

A mischievous headline writer gave the impression that Alex Cole-Hamilton as new Scottish Lib Dem leader was prepared to work with the Tories to save the Union. That’s not quite what he said.

He was talking about offering something very different to the Boris and Nicola show:

If the choice boils down to Boris Johnson’s vision of the union versus Nicola Sturgeon’s of independence, then everyone loses. We don’t need to settle for that.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have never been satisfied with the union as it currently stands. Alex says that he is prepared to work with the Conservatives if they “recognise our union of nations is imperfect, is in need of reform and could do so much better.”

On Labour, he says that while we have much in common on issues of social justice, their instincts on things like ID cards mean that there are significant areas where we disagree. While he’s happy to work with them, we will pursue our distinctive liberal message.

His comments came from an interview (£) with the paper ahead of his likely declaration as Scottish leader when nominations close on Friday.

In it he talked about his work in the children’s sector which drove him to seek elected office. He set out what he sees the Liberal Democrats core mission:

We are the only party that is opposed to big government and centralisation. We are the only party that is opposed to the creation of a national care service because we don’t believe that the problems in our care service are fixed by a big clunking bureaucracy at the centre where people drive power back to Edinburgh. We stand fiercely for the rights of individuals free from state intrusion and the progress we’ve talked about in those areas has largely been driven by liberals over time.

It’s generally a good interview where he goes on to talk about his work on the Salmond Enquiry, and criticises the SNP Government for failing in its “primary mission”, the “creation of good public services.”

There are some less serious questions too. Those advising him will be glad that he has lost some of his tendency to over-share. When asked to spill a secret, he simply described how he has never been in a nativity play because he caught chicken pox.

Maybe the Scottish Lib Dems should do a nativity play as a fundraiser this year to give him the chance he never had as a child. I could direct it. If he doesn’t annoy me, he’ll get a good part, not the Third Lobster or anything. I mean, Sheffield Hallam Lib Dems do a panto every year so it’s not that crazy an idea….

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

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in News.


  • Obviously, the Scottish party sets it own policy on whether the union is worth preserving, and how best to set about that. English people like me may have opinions, but I fully respect the Scottish party’s right to come to its own choices in these matters.

    But you’d think ACH would know better than to give a journalist sufficient material to write this headline. The perception of being too close to the Tories has followed us for years, and seems (from afar) to be part of Scottish Labour’s undoing.

  • It seems to me that the party is not so much in favour of PR as a good thing in itself but rather as a mechanism to be in powet for forever and a day, and given the visceral hatred towards the conservative party that is often vomited onto this site, I would have to question how such a party would include at least 30 to 40 percent of the voters views, if you got your wish of an eternal coalition of anti conservative parties with the lib dems as the eternal king makers.

  • Brad Barrows 14th Aug '21 - 10:28pm

    Alex Cole-Hamilton is fully aware that the Liberal Democrats won only 25% of the Regional Vote in the Edinburgh Western constituency but he won 54% of the Constituency vote – meanwhile the Conservatives won 20% of the Regional Vote but only 6% in the Constituency vote. Alex Cole-Hamilton wants to keep Conservatives voting tactically for Liberal Democrats to ensue that he and his colleagues stay get re-elected.

  • If that is an attempt to negate the idea, and my opinion that lib dems only want P.R. to ensure that a very small party can have a very disproportionate impact on elections and be in power more often than not ,then it doesn’t work. P.R. is the only way the lib dems ( short of an anomaly ) will ever gain power, from what I have seen some people on this site want to do with it I hope it never happens.
    People who want power so badly should never have it.

  • George Thomas 15th Aug '21 - 8:40am

    I would also support a third way but, in order, at the moment the most likely things to happen are i) Tories remain in Westminster with an anti-devolution stance which diminishes Scotland, Wales and NI, ii) Scottish independence and finally iii) LD’s or Labour’s third way.

    Until LD’s in England are shouting that Boris and Tories are the biggest threat to the UK, and voters in England start listening, then Scotland’s best chance is independence.

  • Peter Martin 15th Aug '21 - 8:49am

    “Scottish Liberal Democrats have never been satisfied with the union as it currently stands.”

    So what would Scottish Lib Dems be satisfied with?

    It’s easy to say what you don’t like but a little harder to suggest something better. This will lay you open to attacks from both sides. Some will say it’s worse and others will say it doesn’t go far enough.

  • Matt Wardman 15th Aug '21 - 9:54am

    A provocative headline.

    At UK level there exist checks and balances, and in fairly short order Johnson will be ejected when there is a suitable alternative, or defenstrated by the Tories if there is not.

    But Scotland is a unicameral Parliament, currently with an effective one-party government. Sturgeon can treat a Parliamentary enquiry with contempt, as she has, with no consequences. Who is there to clean house now?

  • It’s unfortunate that the papers use sensational headlines, often contradicted in the body of an article, but that trick is not unique to stories about us, so we shouldn’t take it personally. But if our aspiration is to avoid saying something that can be twisted in a headline, then we’ll be staying quiet forever. We just have to do our best to get our actual message out there, and hope that enough people hear what we’re really about so they know better than to believe headlines.

    Alex is clear that the Tories, along with the SNP are the biggest threat to the people of Scotland.

    Martin, it’s absolutely correct to compare the damaging nationalism of Johnson with the damaging nationalism of Sturgeon. Both prioritise ideological division, and actively rely on each other to scare people into thinking we have to pick one or the other. I appreciate that Sturgeon, with the help of 50 publicly funded media advisors, does a better job of appearing reasonable, especially to those in England who think that anyone criticising Johnson is on their side. If you think Brexit was bad for you, please consider how much worse Scexit will be for those of us in Scotland. The SNP’s recent love of the EU is insincere. They were more than happy for Scotland to leave the EU as they campaigned for Scotland to leave the UK in 2014.

    George, what is it about making us poorer, imposing barriers with our neighbours and biggest trade partners, no central bank, no currency plan and a high probability of capital flight that is better for Scottish people than campaigning for a change of government? (and ideally a change of voting system for Westminster) Is it that it will allow us to ignore education for even longer, ensuring we tumble even further down the international league tables? Is it because we could attempt to make up some of the funding gap by abandoning our climate change aspirations by drilling for the oil we should be leaving in the ground?

    IMO, Scotland’s place in the UK would be improved within a federal UK, and with a Westminster Government elected by PR (ideally STV). The party supports both, but if we had to prioritise one or the other, then we should prioritise PR, because if it’s done right it will prevent any party or government from thinking it’s OK to neglect any one part of the country. It’s also easier to implement in a fairly short time frame.

  • Peter Martin 15th Aug '21 - 11:44am

    A mischievous headline writer gave the impression that Alex Cole-Hamilton as new Scottish Lib Dem leader was prepared to work with the Tories to save the Union. That’s not quite what he said. ”

    He did in fact say ” I will work with them in articulating a positive case for our continued membership of the UK”

    He probably wouldn’t have wanted the headline interpretation of his remarks in this way, but they are literally true, so well within the the accepted limits of journalistic ethics.

    If he’d said he was prepared to work with everyone he would have been on safer ground.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Aug '21 - 4:30pm

    This is ludicrous.

    Two and Two make four, is not what politics is.

    Lib Dems and Conservatives equal, protect the Union.

    So do Lib Dems and Labour.

    Did not read that headline!

    There was much good in govt in the years of New Labour and Lib Dems in Scottish govt, the late and sadly lamented Donald Dewar and his work in coalition with Lored, Jim Wallis.

    The point of many that is missed, is this party cannot support Scottish independence, it goes against everything we stand for, as we are a UK party.

    We unite with others we do not divide from them. Labour do in theory. I think with the new Labour and soon, Lib Dem Scotland leadership, they can in practice.

    There must be a truce on this nonsense. Three hundred plus years down the drain because of the egomania and nationalism of Johnson, Sturgeon, is reason to seek allies in Labour.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Aug '21 - 5:55pm


    I do not agree with that.

    I am entitled to a view on the destruction of my country.

    As a country, or entity, the Uk contains a part that wants to have a say in something I am able to have a view on.

    I do not want a vote.

    I did not agree with the view that it is inconsistent to want a second referendum on a Brexit agreement, but not on Scottish independence. One , the Brexit policy, was on a way to leave something having decided to leave it. The Scottish Nationalist insistence, is on an issue whereby the public decided to stay in something. No terms are needing changing. The EU vote was a radical change. The Scottish vote was for a continuing rapport.

    I did not agree with Revoke, as a policy. Indeed I was completely anti it. I us considering, favoured a Liberal version of Brexit by then, but with a referendum on an agreement. I am against Scottish complete separation. I am not , as you say, as an Englishman, going to provide a Scottish vision for our party..

    I can provide a Uk one, that we can all favour a lot of. But shall need several articles for that if you want it Martin!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Aug '21 - 6:11pm

    As I tried to say, here, Martin, I , us, we should have considered listening to the decision to leave the EU and meet it with at the very basic level, an idea of what a Liberal Democratic EU might be like, and then, that failing to convince, a Liberal democratic Brexit.

    Clegg favoured the status quo on the EU, as you might expect from an ex EU employee of little radicalism.

    I have a good opinion of colleagues in our party north of the border, from Caron to Alex, they can come up with a Scottish flavour to my UK and English recipe, or better, can give me and us all a recipe we can like for them or us.

    But I have to say, I am a vegetarian, and as a allegorical way of thinking, it reveals, I favour radicalism, for Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, but moderated by good traditional continuity too, like my love of tea and marmalade!

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Aug '21 - 7:56pm

    “my opinion that lib dems only want P.R. to ensure that a very small party can have a very disproportionate impact on elections and be in power more often than not”

    You are entitled to your opinion. However this LibDem wants some form of PR to be used for all elections irrespective of how well the party might perform.

    Because FPTP is just plain wrong. It gives larger parties disproportionate power more often than not and denies supporters of minority parties fair representation.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Aug '21 - 11:24pm

    You might be right Martin, for so entrenched are the positions of the nationalists on both sides, UK wide and Scotland too, that a sensible, humorous, progressive, open, friendly person and political stance like mine, might be taken as unacceptable and unsatisfactory by some!

    I too favour a UK of strong parts.

    I too see Scotland for the country it is. It is why I favour it staying in the UK!

    You are wrong that I think of it as a region. And you ought to see it from my stance on this and my actual, not perceived “attitude.”

  • Peter Martin 16th Aug '21 - 6:24am

    @ Martin,

    “I have no recollection of anyone advocating independence claim how wonderful it would be to be out of the EU.”

    There has always been a stong strand of euroscepticsm in Scotland. The Western Islands were one of the few regions which voted against the old EEC in the ’76 referendum. The SNP at the time supported the No campaign.

    So are the SNP really as enthusiastic about the EU as you’d like them to be or have they simply made a tactical decision to temporarily ally themselves with the pro EU cause in the belief that this is the best route to achieve independence?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug '21 - 12:38pm

    I get that Martin, I would argue that Scotland has a claim one day, though now is too soon. The referendum ought to settle it a while. Less than a decade is absurd in my opinion, a period, to regurgitate it.

    And actually, I think a decision to break up something that has been for centuries, one quarter of a state, in effect, in one vote, is far more destructive than one country withdrawing from a union of countries that in its current form has been for only three decades.

  • Peter Martin 16th Aug '21 - 1:21pm

    @ Martin

    “If Scotland is a country rather than a region, how can ….anyone …. justify denial of self-determination?”

    You should know. If the result doesn’t go the way you’d like in any future referendum the result can simply be ignored, and the decision revoked.

  • nvelope2003 16th Aug '21 - 1:31pm

    Western Isles ? Na h-Eileanan an Iar is the name of the Parliamentary Constituency.

  • Peter Martin 16th Aug '21 - 1:53pm

    @ nvelope2003,

    Germany is only Germany in English. We don’t call it Deutschland or Allemagne or whatever. So, unless anyone is writing in Gaelic the Western Isles is the correct term.

    I actually said the referendum was in ’76. I’m surprised neither David nor yourself has pulled me up on that.

    ‘In 1975, when voters last gave their verdict on European membership, the Western Isles returned a decisive “no”. ‘

  • @ Lorenzo Cherin ” I would argue that Scotland has a claim one day, though now is too soon”.

    When is One Day, Lorenzo ? It sounds remarkably like Churchill’s attitude to India back in the 1930’s. Are you waiting for the Scots to mature, grow up and become more sophisticated, or do you still prefer your Mars Bars cooked in batter ?

  • Peter Martin 16th Aug '21 - 2:42pm

    @ Lorenzo,

    “I did not agree with the view that it is inconsistent to want a second referendum on a Brexit agreement, but not on Scottish independence. One , the Brexit policy, was on a way to leave something having decided to leave it.”

    The SNP wants another referendum on Independence but not necessarily on Brexit. It suits their purposes to use the Brexit issue as a wedge.

    I’m not sure about your logic re leaving and having another referendum on the negotiated terms. If Scotland does choose to leave, which I hope they don’t, it has to be made clear in advance that there’s no going back on that. In other words, seeing what the deal looks like and having another think about it. If this is allowed it will actually encourage a leave vote.

    Presumably EU remainers knew this too which is why they weren’t pushing the idea until after the initial vote didn’t go their way.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug '21 - 3:25pm


    I think we to a good extent agree, but my point is to decide regularly on issues , say within a loose Union, when of different individual views, is not the point, as the SNP want another vote, too soon I think.


    I do not say there must be a second confirming vote,but if the Scottish people did want that after a decision to leave the UK, and were not convinced re the agreement reached after independence was arranged, this would resemble the second or people’s vote view re Brexit.

    To leave is complex, to stay is not , its simple.

  • Peter Martin 16th Aug '21 - 4:34pm

    @ Lorenzo,

    Staying won’t be simple if the result is close. It might just put things back until the next time.

    Do you remember the word “trigger” being used in connection with Art50? There is good reason for that. The purpose is, or was, to prevent countries saying they wanted to leave the EU and then changing their minds after they had secured some concessions.

    It will be better for all if it is agreed in advance that there will be no re-runs. I don’t believe it will be helpful to either Scotland or the rest of the UK if there is a built-in incentive for the rUK to negotiate a harsh deal with the aim of keeping the Scots in the fold. IF Scots choose to leave we don’t want a cold war afterwards with either them or the EU.

  • @ Peter Martin “IF Scots choose to leave we don’t want a cold war afterwards with either them or the EU.”

    Who is “We”, Mr Martin, and does that tell us something about underlying attitudes ?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug '21 - 5:11pm


    I think your’e correct.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Denis Mollison
    The question heading this piece - `How do the Liberals win a majority?' is FPTP thinking. It would be better if Trudeau delivered on his 2015 promise of elect...
  • theakes
    The Green image is easily understood by everyone. For the life of me what is our simple image, Liberal Values, well that is pretty meaningless, Cons, Labour Gr...
  • Peter
    @Jaz @Caron - your representaton of what the 'other side' want is overblown. From what I have seen, the concern is to defend current legal rights of women to se...
  • Fiona
    I support this policy in theory, but as everyone is fully aware, it's a tricky issue and must be done right, so it's absolutely right that we give everyone with...
  • Martin
    The respected legal commentator David Allen Green ...