BREAKING….Alex Cole-Hamilton makes his move

Alex Cole-Hamilton has tonight announced he is standing to be Scottish Lib Dem leader. The contest is taking place after Willie Rennie announced he was standing down two weeks ago.

Alex throwing his hat into the ring is the most surprising thing since the sun rose in the east this morning.

He announced the news in video posted on Twitter:


He is brilliant on all the touchstone liberal issues of human rights, civil liberties and social justice.

In his weekly column for the Edinburgh Evening News, he set out his stalll:

After everything we’ve been through, Scotland needs new hope, right now.

A massive opportunity exists for an alternative kind of thinking to break through in Scottish politics. One that can capture the votes of Scots who are tired of having to choose between those extremes. I want to drive that alternative, so I’m putting my name forward as a candidate to be the next leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

I am an internationalist, I believe in forging unions with our neighbours wherever we can. I will always support our membership of the United Kingdom. But that doesn’t mean that I have to sign up to the Conservative vision of what that Union should look like.

Our United Kingdom needs to change. From devolving power to communities and working collaboratively through federalism, to changing our failed voting system and abolishing the House of Lords, there is much we should reform. Liberals have been in the vanguard of such reform for centuries.

People often underestimate the Lib Dems and we keep surprising them. In the Chesham and Amersham by-election, we took one of the safest Tory seats in the country and did so by a country mile.

It shows that if you want a Liberal Democrat parliamentarian, you can have one. In Scotland, Willie Rennie has ended any question over our party’s survival by building fortresses in our constituencies. It’s now time for us to look beyond those boundaries and reconnect with those Scots who stand where we do.

So many people are looking for a party that’s committed to tackling the climate emergency, without the baggage of nationalism; one that fights for the rights of minorities, and which pushes back against centralisation and state intrusion on our civil liberties. We are the answer they are looking for.

I spent the best part of a decade trying to get him into the Scottish Parliament because Holyrood needed a powerful advocate for young people. His professional life had been about working for charities helping disadvantaged kids. He understands what needs to happen to give them the opportunities they need. He tried to get the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland doubled to 16 but the SNP Government would not go higher than 12. He supported moves to ensure that children in Scotland have equal protection from assault and fought for that to become party policy. He’s called for care-experience to be a protected characteristic under equalities legislation.

Young people in Scotland have been at the sharp end of the SNP’s policies, facing ridiculously long waits for mental health treatment and plummeting education standards. And that’s before you start with the widening attainment gap. Alex gets the problems they are facing and will, as he says, offer them “new hope, right now.”

You can sign up for updates from Alex’s leadership campaign here.

The contest is open to all Lib Dem MSPs and nominations close on 20th August. We will have to see if either Beatrice Wishart or Liam McArthur decide to throw their hat in the ring. My sense at this time is that it is unlikely. We will have to wait and see…

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

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  • Brad Barrows 28th Jul '21 - 9:06am

    Alex Cole-Hamilton is the ideal candidate to fight the Conservatives for a bigger share of the Unionist vote as he will appeal to Unionists who reject Labour but also find it difficult to support a party led by Boris Johnson.

  • Not exactly a surprise, but welcome news all the same.

    That’s an interesting point about those with care experience. I have volunteered with a charity that works with care experienced kids and it was an eye opener. Things are moving in the right direction, but there’s so much more that can and should be done.

  • Rif Winfield 28th Jul '21 - 9:59am

    Alex Cole-Hamilton is correct in all he says about constitutional reform, but he – and the Party generally – really need to get their act together to define what they mean by the term “federalism”. I suspect that this is because there are divergent views within the Liberal Democrats about the extent to which “federalism” should operate.

    For a start, no system of federalism can survive if the UK Parliament retain the right to abolish the powers and even the existence of the various component parts of that federation, if the UK Parliament can produce a majority in the Commons to support such an abolition. This means that it is essential to adopt a written constitution which enshrines the rights of the federal government and of the component parts, and expressly bans the federal government and parliament from altering those provisions in the written constitution without the consent of those component parts.

    If as Liberals we believe that all government powers should be held at the lowest practical level (i.e. at the level nearest to individual people in their communities), then the first step in writing that constitution should be to limit the powers of that federal authorities to those aspects of government which cannot be operated by a lower level of government (starting perhaps with foreign policy, defence and monetary policy) and work from the premise that all other powers could (I say could, not should) be operated by the component parts of the federation. That is what Liberals should be seeking on which to come to a common conclusion.

  • Personally I am not impressed by attacking or annoying the SNP for the sake of it. A totally devolved nation or independent Scotland, much the same thing without other countries wanting perks from it or treating it like a theme park and wanting to keep it “in the stable”. An independent Scotland could still have a LD party.
    Abolishing the House of Lords probably means no LD influence there. Especially if we are seen as an alternative to the Tories and not with just good policies

  • @Siv, what do you think the purpose of opposition politicians is if not to hold the government to account? For those of us in Scotland, especially for our elected members of the Scottish parliament, that means challenging the SNP over their failures. Whether or not the SNP are annoyed by this is neither here nor there

    What next? Our MPs use parliamentary questions to cheerlead for the Tories? Should the SNP be nicer to Johnson? Should our members of the London assembly keep quiet unless it’s to gush over Labour’s handling of things? Do the same rules apply when we are in opposition in Local government?

    Devolution and independence are not the same thing. Most Scots want to stay in the UK and just want a government that will focus attention on the issues that matter and not waste time chasing grievances and pursuing a policy that will bring about worse austerity than anything that came after the financial crash. We’re against independence because we are internationalists who want to break down barriers, not install new ones. And we don’t want to live in self inflicted poverty.

  • I hope Mr Cole-Hamilton gives a listening ear to Martin’s comments.

    We need to hear a bit more about Devo-Max, a bit more about co-operation with other parties including the Greens and the Scottish Government, a bit more about co-operation with the EU (as clearly expressed by the Scottish people in the 2016 Referendum) and a bit less about narrow nationalism of a Unionist variety.

    Courtesy to female Ministers of the Scottish Government might also be wise.

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