Tag Archives: Alex Cole-Hamilton

12 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • GDP figures: Economy stuck in the slow lane
  • Defence: Only the Lib Dems are committed to reversing troop cuts
  • Energy Minister stands down: Drumbeat of Conservative resignations is becoming deafening
  • More than half of councils see rise in sewage dumps
  • Jardine Secures Commons Debate on Consular Assistance

GDP figures: Economy stuck in the slow lane

Responding to the latest GDP figures, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

This sluggish growth shows the UK economy is stuck in the slow lane under the Conservatives.

This government has no plan to fix the damage they’ve done to people’s living standards.

Instead we have a prime minister and Chancellor totally out of touch with families feeling the pinch. The only way to get the economy moving again is to kick this economically illiterate Conservative government out of office.

Defence: Only the Lib Dems are committed to reversing troop cuts

Responding to Labour and the Conservatives announcements on defence policy today, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

Only the Liberal Democrats are committed to reversing the Conservatives’ irresponsible cuts to Army troop numbers. With Putin waging war in Europe and Trump threatening the future of NATO, cutting the British Army by 10,000 troops is a major threat to our long-term national security.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives and Labour only offer meaningless talk about vague aspirations for some unspecified time in the future.

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10 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Government amendment on “deeply damaging” non-disclosure agreements does not go far enough to protect victims
  • Shoplifting: Govt continues to let organised gangs off the hook
  • Cole-Hamilton criticises state of sewage monitoring
  • SNP burn through ScotWind cash in record time
  • McArthur responds to opposition to assisted dying bill

Government amendment on “deeply damaging” non-disclosure agreements does not go far enough to protect victims

After tireless campaigning by Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, the Government in the House of Lords has tabled an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill that ensures non-disclosure agreements preventing victims from disclosing information to the police or other bodies (including confidential support services) cannot be legally enforced.

Responding to the tabling of this amendment, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said:

The Liberal Democrats have long been campaigning to end the deeply damaging practice of non-disclosure agreements. This amendment is a welcome move that will help victims to access the support they need.

But while this is a step in the right direction, the Government is not going far enough in giving victims their voice back.

We need a complete ban of NDAs in cases of sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying to ensure that no victim is silenced.

Shoplifting: Govt continues to let organised gangs off the hook

Responding to the news that assaulting a shop worker will be made a separate criminal offence in England and Wales, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

For too long, the Conservative Government have been sitting on their hands while hardworking shopkeepers are left to face the brunt of the shoplifting epidemic alone.

As the majority of shoplifting cases go unsolved, the Conservatives has repeatedly failed to get even the basics right of tackling this issue – something their new gimmicks won’t change.

It is now vital the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary invest in proper community policing and ensure all shoplifting thefts are investigated.

The government is currently letting organised criminal gangs off the hook and leaving shopkeepers hugely vulnerable.

Cole-Hamilton criticises state of sewage monitoring

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has called on the SNP and Greens to get tough with Scottish Water as it was revealed that in three local authorities there is no monitoring of sewage dumping at all and in ten more local authorities just one or two sites are monitored.

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9 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Hospital’s spend £3million on pest control as patients suffer from rats and insects
  • Cameron and Trump: European leaders’ summit needed to seize frozen Russian assets
  • Cole-Hamilton: SNP have failed to help A&E recover
  • Lib Dems launch London Transport Policy – Blackie: “No more bus cuts”

Hospital’s spend £3million on pest control as patients suffer from rats and insects

  • Staff report being bitten by bugs as rats roam maternity and emergency wards
  • Freedom of Information requests reveal NHS Hospitals coping with 18,000 pest incidents since 2021
  • Liberal Democrat Leader demands urgent repair fund for crumbling hospitals

Freedom of Information Requests by the Liberal Democrats have revealed the extent of pests roaming NHS Hospitals. As the NHS repair backlog reaches record levels, these new revelations show staff and patients subjected to poor conditions.

Since 2021, over 60 NHS Trusts have reported £3.7 million spent on pest control at their hospitals. Imperial College NHS Trust, which includes St.Mary’s Hospital London, spent a staggering £383,597 on pest control, including dealing with 748 pest incidents last year alone.

East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust spent £119,199 to deal with mice in the kitchen, maggots in the mortuary and rat droppings in a corpse bag, amongst many other pests.

The most shocking incidents were reported by East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Trust, which includes Colchester Hospital and Ipswich Hospital. Staff reported:

  • Black insects are biting the legs of staff
  • Ants and fly infestations
  • Rats in the ambulance area

At Ashford NHS Trust, dead headless pigeons and dead rabbits, as well as slug and ants were reported. Royal United Hospitals Bath reported pests in the children’s ward and breast clinic.

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2 April 2024 – today’s press releases (part 1)

  • Stealth taxes to drag 1.6 million pensioners into paying income tax
  • Sunak laughing on radio: Stop hunkering in offices and call an election
  • Cole-Hamilton: No one should have to wait 12 hours at A&E
  • More than 1,900 stuck in hospital

Stealth taxes to drag 1.6 million pensioners into paying income tax

1.6 million pensioners are set to be dragged into paying income tax due to the government’s stealth tax freeze by 2027/28, new research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The House of Commons Library analysis looks at the impact of the Chancellor’s decision to freeze the personal allowance at £12,570, the rate at which people start paying tax. Without the stealth tax freeze, the allowance would have risen to £15,220 in the coming financial year (2024/25) and up to £15,990 in 2027/28.

The analysis estimated that around 1.2 million pensioners will be dragged into paying income tax in 2024/25. By 2027/28, 1.6 million additional pensioners will be paying income tax compared to if the Personal Allowance had been increased in line with inflation.

The latest DWP figures show there are 12.7 million people receiving the state pension. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, well over 60 per cent of these pensioners now pay income tax, up from around 50% in 2010. The research found 8.5 million people over the age of 65 were now paying tax on their income, up from roughly 4.9 million in 2010.

Separate analysis from the Resolution Foundation has found that the freezing of income tax thresholds will leave the average taxpaying pensioner £1,000 worse off by 2027-28, or a collective hit of £8 billion.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

These stark figures reveal the stealth tax bombshell facing pensioners under this Conservative government.

Older people who have worked hard and contributed all their lives are now being clobbered with years of unfair tax hikes.

Jeremy Hunt’s pensioner-punishing Budget will not be forgotten come the next election. The Conservative Party faces a reckoning at the ballot from older voters sick of being taken for granted.

Sunak laughing on radio: Stop hunkering in offices and call an election

Responding to Rishi Sunak laughing at being asked when the next General Election will be on BBC Radio Tees, Liberal Democrat local government spokesperson Helen Morgan MP said:

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27 March 2024 – today’s press releases (part 2)

  • Ed Davey warns Sunak facing sewage local elections backlash on campaign visit to Dorset
  • Khan already failing on Met recruitment
  • Sewage spills rise: 21,660 “disgusting” sewage dumps in 2023
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats respond to Housing Bill
  • Cole-Hamilton responds to hackers’ threat of publishing NHS stolen data
  • Rennie: Ministers’ fingerprints all over Tydeman sacking

Ed Davey warns Sunak facing sewage local elections backlash on campaign visit to Dorset

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey will today warn that Rishi Sunak is facing a “sewage backlash” at the ballot box in May’s local elections, on a visit to West Dorset as part of his campaign tour of the West Country.

Ed Davey will be meeting CEO of Surfers Against Sewage, Giles Bristow, and visiting West Bay beach, a popular tourist destination where pollution alerts were put in place after raw sewage was discharged last year.

The Liberal Democrats have led the campaign in Westminster to tackle the sewage scandal since 2021, and it’s been a key issue in their big victories in previous local election campaigns and four parliamentary by-election wins.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the water industry to be “ripped up from top to bottom” to ensure profit is no longer put above environmental goals, and the creation of a new tougher regulator to replace Ofwat. Since the Liberal Democrats were the first party to call for a ban on water firm executive bonuses over two years ago, a number of water CEOs have given theirs up.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

Rishi Sunak and Conservative MPs are facing a sewage backlash after years of blocking tough measures to crack down on water firms. The water industry needs to be ripped up from top to bottom, to stop profits and shareholders’ dividends driving everything. It is time to start again.

Sunak may have bottled a General Election, but he cannot hide from voters in the local elections where communities will voice real anger at this environmental scandal.

From Dorset to Yorkshire, lifelong Conservative voters across the country are switching to the Liberal Democrats because they’re fed up with seeing their rivers and beaches ruined by sewage.

Under this Conservative government both sewage in our rivers and water company profits have increased hand in hand. Enough is enough: it is clear the only way to end this sewage scandal is to boot the Conservatives out of government.

Khan already failing on Met recruitment

Responding to Sadiq Khan’s announcement that a possible Labour Government would give London more resources to recruit police officers, Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate Rob Blackie said:

This smacks of another pre-election gimmick from the Mayor. Surely any future Government wouldn’t deny London the resources it needs if it decides to elect a different party into the Mayoralty?

In any case, the Mayor is already failing on police recruitment. Numbers are going backwards and he has had to hand money back to the Government for his lack of success. So Londoners will be sceptical. Sadiq Khan has made similar promises before and not delivered.

Under Sadiq Khan’s leadership, a police officer told the Casey enquiry into the Met police that detection rates for sexual offences and rape had fallen so low that ‘it may as well be legal’ in London.

Today the Metropolitan police are catching rapists half as often as when Sadiq Khan became Mayor in 2016. And 6,000 police are stuck in the back office instead of the frontline.

This is not a policing record to be proud of. The Liberal Democrats’ top priority will be to fix the Met.

Sewage spills rise: 21,660 “disgusting” sewage dumps in 2023

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today demanded that the SNP and Greens stop defending outdated sewage standards as new Scottish Water figures revealed a 10% increase in the number of sewage dumps in 2023.

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27 March 2024 – today’s press releases (part 1)

  • NHS satisfaction survey: Govt can’t be trusted with NHS
  • Sewage spills rise: Ed Davey calls for national environmental emergency to be declared
  • Lib Dem comment on E.coli in Thames
  • Scotland’s sewage crisis 40% worse than previously thought
  • Bus journeys plummet by 31%

NHS satisfaction survey: Govt can’t be trusted with NHS

Responding to the British Social Attitudes survey on NHS satisfaction, Liberal Democrat Health and Social Care spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said:

This is a damning assessment of the Government’s management of the NHS. Years and years of neglect and incompetence has run our NHS into the ground.

NHS staff work around the clock to see thousands and thousands of patients but the public are understandably frustrated that they’re often waiting too long to see a GP, or to get a hospital appointments for diagnosis and treatment.

The public know this Conservative Government cannot be trusted with our NHS, and they will want to deliver their verdict at the next general election.

Sewage spills rise: Ed Davey calls for national environmental emergency to be declared

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has called on the government to declare a national environmental emergency after the number of sewage spills in 2023 increased by 54% on the previous year, putting ecosystems already at breaking point on the brink of collapse.

As part of this national environmental emergency, the Liberal Democrats are calling for an urgent meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) to review the impact of sewage spills on human health – for river and sea swimmers in particular. Campaign group Surfers Against Sewage released a report last year showing almost 2,000 people reported getting sick last year after swimming in the sea or rivers.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

The Liberal Democrats have been warning this Conservative government for years that the sewage scandal is ruining the country’s rivers and beaches and pushing ecosystems to the brink of collapse.

Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party have failed to listen and as a result sewage spills are increasing, our precious countryside is being destroyed and swimmers are falling sick.

It is time for this Conservative government to finally deal with this disgraceful situation and declare a national environmental emergency. That must include convening an urgent SAGE meeting to look into the impact of sewage spills on people’s health.

Only by treating the sewage scandal with the urgency it demands can we save our rivers and beaches for future generations to enjoy.

Lib Dem comment on E.coli in Thames

Commenting on findings of high E.coli levels in the Thames by River Action today, Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Rob Blackie said:

This is the consequence of 72 billion litres of raw sewage pumped into the Thames in London since 2020.

It amounts to an environment catastrophe in the capital.

The Conservative government have let water companies get away with polluting for too long. It must crack down on Thames Water.

Instead of action, we have seen huge increases in sewage dumped into the river.

If elected I will work to stop sewage being dumped into our rivers and campaign to make water companies pay for the damage they’ve done.

Scotland’s sewage crisis 40% worse than previously thought

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today accused the Scottish Government of being “defenders of outdated sewage standards” as figures published by Scottish Water revealed that that there were an additional 5,668 sewage dumps in Scotland in 2022, on top of the initial 14,008 that were reported in March.

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26 March 2024 – today’s press releases

  • No progress on A&E after a year of Humza Yousaf as FM
  • Rennie responds to David Tydeman sacking
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats respond to housing figures

No progress on A&E after a year of Humza Yousaf as FM

Responding to new figures showing only 62.9% of people attending A&E were seen within the 4 hour target in the week ending 17th March, just as bad as when Humza Yousaf became First Minister, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

Waiting times in A&E are just as bad as they were a year ago when Humza Yousaf moved from being Health Secretary to First

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21 March 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Interest rates: Families are still facing a mortgage cliff edge
  • Khan ‘failing’ on Met Police reform – Lib Dems slam mayor’s record on first anniversary of Casey report
  • Cole-Hamilton challenges Yousaf on SNP Government’s climate record
  • Rennie responds to poverty statistics
  • Water Industry Commission for Scotland branded an embarrassment

Interest rates: Families are still facing a mortgage cliff edge

Responding to the Bank of England’s decision to keep interest rates at 5.25%, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

This is cold comfort for millions of homeowners who still face massive hikes in their mortgage bills after Liz Truss crashed the economy. Many families still face a mortgage cliff edge despite this news.

Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget and the Conservative party’s economic vandalism has put intolerable pressure on people’s finances.

This Conservative government has no good story to tell on the economy.

The only way to break this cycle of stagnation and financial hardship is to kick this out of touch government out of office. Rishi Sunak needs to stop his desperate attempt to cling on to power and call an election.

Khan ‘failing’ on Met Police reform – Lib Dems slam mayor’s record on first anniversary of Casey report

A year on from the publication of Baroness Casey’s damning report on the Met police, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has made “no or only slow progress on key issues”, according to analysis by the Lib Dems.

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20 March 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Ed Davey launches local election campaign with hourglass stunt
  • SEPA log thousands of complaints about state of Scottish waterways
  • Welsh Lib Dems raise concerns over future of dentistry in Wales
  • “Communities must benefit from new grid developments” – Welsh Lib Dems

Ed Davey launches local election campaign with hourglass stunt

  • Lib Dem Leader unveils hourglass stunt in Blue Wall Hertfordshire, declaring “Time’s running out for Rishi Sunak”
  • Ed Davey focusses his party’s campaign on local health and social care services, sewage pollution in rivers and the cost of living crisis.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has launched his party’s English local elections campaign with an hourglass stunt, declaring “Time’s running out for Rishi Sunak”, and calling on the country to vote for change in May.

Ed Davey visited the Blue Wall battleground of Harpenden in Hertfordshire, which is set to be a marginal constituency at the next election. He will begin his local election tour this week, visiting every corner of the country as the party looks to make further gains on local councils.

The Liberal Democrats made major gains across Hertfordshire from the Conservative party in last year’s local elections. In 2023, the Liberal Democrats gained over 400 council seats across the country.

At today’s launch, Ed Davey unveiled a blue and gold hourglass in front of Liberal Democrat activists. After turning it upside down, the sand revealed the words ‘Time’s Running Out Rishi!’ He was joined by St.Albans MP and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Daisy Cooper, and Victoria Collins, the party’s parliamentary candidate for Harpenden and Berkhamsted.

The Liberal Democrats will focus their local elections campaign on local health and social care services, as well as the local environment and the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Speaking after the stunt, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

Time’s running out for Rishi Sunak. He might have bottled a May General Election.

He might hope the tide will turn, squatting in Downing Street for a few more months.

But even the Prime Minister can’t deny people across England the chance to have their say in local elections on the Second of May.

Rishi Sunak’s government is running out of road because people know it is time for change.

And people are voting for us because it is time for the Liberal Democrats.

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19 March 2024 – today’s press releases (part 1)

  • London Lib Dem Launch – Blackie slams Khan record on crime
  • Cole-Hamilton: Patients deserve better than the SNP’s new normal
  • “Our Welsh workers are not collateral damage”-Welsh Lib Dems call for clarification on jobs following Tata Steel oven closure
  • Cole-Hamilton attacks SNP ministers as opioids continue to blight Scotland

London Lib Dem Launch – Blackie slams Khan record on crime

Mayoral Candidate, Rob Blackie, has launched the London Liberal Democrat today with a pledge to ‘fix the Met’.

The party launched its campaign at Pop Brixton, located in the neighbourhood Rob has spent much of the past 20 years raising his family.

Blackie told the media and a group of close supporters that Sadiq Khan does “not deserve” a third term due to his record on crime. He also dismissed the Conservative chances, accusing the party of giving up on London after selecting a Trump-backing candidate.

Blackie said Sadiq Khan’s failure on crime is the reason he is standing as mayor.

Seasoned campaigner, Blackie, 50, described how he became a victim of crime himself. His neck was broken in a vicious gang mugging in Vauxhall, and he now has a titanium neck.

Speaking to journalists in Brixton this morning (Tuesday), Blackie said:

My top priority is crime and policing.

Sadiq Khan’s failure on those issues is the main reason I am standing against him.

Violent crime has risen by 30 percent in London since Mr Khan has been in office.

Sexual offence clear-up rates have halved in the last eight years.

Let me just read one shocking sentence from Baroness Casey’s report on the Met Police, published last year – the account of a serving police officer, who said: ‘If you look at our performance around rape, serious sexual offences, the detection rate is so low you may as well say it’s legal in London.’

Just let that sink in… ‘You may as well say it’s legal in London.’

It is just shameful.

Sadiq Khan blames everyone else for this but himself. The buck stops with him and we will call him out in this campaign.

In his speech, Blackie described how he grew up in London playing on the street with neighbouring children from all over the world. He added:

I love living and working in the most cosmopolitan city on the planet.

That is the London I love, and the London we want to ‘get back’.

He also took a swipe at the London Conservatives, describing Susan Hall as “beyond the pale”. He said:

Far from embracing London, she attacks it. Liking tweets that call our city Londonistan and venerate Enoch Powell.

Does she even like London? She certainly doesn’t love our great city. When the Conservatives chose her as their candidate, they gave up on this election.

Cole-Hamilton: Patients deserve better than the SNP’s new normal

Responding to new figures showing only 65.2% of people attending A&E were seen within the 4 hour target in the week ending 10th March, while 2,943 people waited over 8 hours, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

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12 March 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Stuart’s failure to call out racist Hester comments “jaw-dropping”
  • 1,197 suspected drug deaths in 2023
  • Firefighters face risks as government fails to deliver RAAC register
  • Welsh Lib Dems call for more support for childcare sector in Wales
  • Care leavers shouldn’t be forced to “bear burden of proof” when it comes to accessing housing support
  • Blackie calls on Susan Hall to disown racist Frank Hester remarks

Stuart’s failure to call out racist Hester comments “jaw-dropping”

Responding to Graham Stuarts’ comments this morning on Times Radio where he refused to say Frank Hester’s alleged comments were racist and refused to say the money should be returned, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

Graham Stuart’s refusal to call out these racist comments was simply jaw-dropping.

The Conservative Party has flat out refused to return these donations despite these comments being inexcusable. How low can you go?

Rishi Sunak can bunker down and hide in Downing Street as long as he wants but every day he doesn’t return this money is another damning blow to the Conservative Party’s credibility.

1,197 suspected drug deaths in 2023

Responding to new Police Scotland figures showing that there were 1,197 suspected drug deaths between January and December 2023, which is a 10% increase compared to 2022, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:

When 100 people a month are dying in Scotland’s drugs deaths emergency, we need to be open to anything that will save them. Each represents a life cut short and a family torn apart by grief.

These numbers are already going in the wrong direction and with the SNP and Greens having pushed through a budget that delivers a real-terms cut to drug services, I am extremely concerned that problems will simply get worse.

Every tool at our disposal needs to be used to reduce harm and save lives. That includes protecting the drug and alcohol budget, integrated drug checking facilities and preparing now for a network of safe consumption rooms because help can’t just be limited to Glasgow.

Well-meaning words won’t stop people dying. Humza Yousaf and his government must deliver swift change and ensure they never take their eye off the ball again.

Firefighters face risks as government fails to deliver RAAC register

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today urged the Scottish Government to compile a complete list of buildings where the dangerous bubbly concrete known as RAAC is present, as a minister conceded that the presence of the material could present safety implications for firefighters responding to incidents.

In response to a parliamentary question from Mr Cole-Hamilton, community safety minister Siobhian Brown admitting that “Where the material is in poor condition there could be greater risk of weakness or collapse”.

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Cole-Hamilton to host Russian dissidents event in Scottish Parliament

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP will be hosting a visit from Russian dissident, Ekaterina Schulmann, in the Scottish Parliament following the death of Russian opposition politician, Alexei Navalny.

As a Russian dissident, Ekaterina has been labelled a foreign agent by the Kremlin which means she is unable to work in Russia. She is a high-profile lecturer, a columnist and gives expert commentary to the media. She is also an associate fellow of Chatham House and hosts a YouTube channel on which she commentates on Russian affairs to her 1.2 million subscribers.

On Wednesday, Ekaterina will be delivering a presentation to …

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5 March 2024 – today’s press releases (part 2)

  • More than 1,800 people stuck in hospital
  • Cole-Hamilton: SNP cut £30m from mental health despite missing targets yet again
  • Lib Dems reveal some of the biggest nationalist failures on the international stage
  • Lib Dem Mayoral candidate beats cancer

More than 1,800 people stuck in hospital

Responding to new Public Health Scotland figures which show 1,860 people were stuck in hospital due to their discharge being delayed, with 57,860 days being spent in hospital by people waiting to be discharged, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:

Amid a chaotic turnover of SNP health secretaries, the Scottish Government has completely failed to tackle core problems that are leaving far too many languishing in hospital wards.

People should never have to wait weeks or months in hospital for a care home place or help to return home.

The SNP’s ill-fated centralisation of social care will do absolutely nothing to ease pressures. This billion-pound bureaucracy must be scrapped, not salved.

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5 March 2024 – today’s press releases (part 1)

We’ve now managed to gain access to press releases from our Scottish colleagues, and so, welcome to our newly enhanced press release coverage…

  • Lords Rwanda Bill votes: “Morally bankrupt government” defeated five times
  • Ed Davey visits Chancellor’s seat ahead of Budget as GP funding in Surrey slashed by £10 million
  • January the worst month on record for waits over 12 hours at A&E
  • Scot Lib Dems respond as council debt at record levels

Lords Rwanda Bill votes: “Morally bankrupt government” defeated five times

Responding to the series of five heavy defeats for the government on their Rwanda Bill in the House of Lords this evening, which saw several Conservative peers voting against the government’s position, Liberal Democrat Leader in the Lords Dick Newby said:

For months this Conservative government has been pushing this policy that does nothing to solve the asylum backlog. This Bill has cost hundreds of millions of pounds, and doesn’t combat dangerous Channel crossings or create safe, legal routes.

By declaring Rwanda safe when it is clearly anything but, and excluding the courts, the Bill also undermines the rule of law. It is the product of a morally and politically bankrupt Government.

Ed Davey visits Chancellor’s seat ahead of Budget as GP funding in Surrey slashed by £10 million

  • GP funding in Surrey fell by 5.3% in real terms between 2018/19 and 2022/23, equivalent to a £9.2 million cut when accounting for inflation
  • Funding per patient took an even starker hit, falling by 8.6% in real terms resulting in a £14 per patient shortfall
  • Lib Dem Leader Ed Davey will visit a GP surgery in Jeremy Hunt’s seat ahead of the Budget to call on the Chancellor to cancel his planned £1.3 billion real terms cut to NHS spending
  • A recent poll of the Chancellor’s seat showed it was at risk of falling to the Lib Dems with voters in the seat naming the NHS as their top priority as 59% of them had close friends and family who had struggled to get a GP appointment

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey will today (Tuesday 5th March) visit a GP surgery in the Chancellor’s Godalming and Ash constituency ahead of the Budget to demand that Hunt cancel his planned real terms NHS spending cuts.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton on Scottish Budget: SNP and Greens out of ideas

It was a depressing day in Holyrood yesterday as the SNP/Green budget passed. An unfunded Council Tax freeze crippling Scottish Councils, affordable housing cut by a third in the middle of a massive housing emergency, mental health support cut, education cut.

There was never a cat in hell’s chance that Lib Dems would vote for such an ill thought through budget. Alex Cole-Hamilton explained why:

In this budget, the Scottish Government is reaching for more tax rises. It is punishing low and middle-income families through fiscal drag, it is taking a hammer to the green renewables piggy bank and it is cutting public services for young and old alike. Why? It is doing so because Scottish National Party and Green ministers are completely out of ideas about how to spark growth, drive innovation or enlarge the tax base sustainably. They have a habit of making costly blunders—for example, the two ferries that are rusting in dry dock, the botched deposit return scheme, the independence papers and the selling of Scotland’s prized sea bed on the cheap. Next in their sights is the clueless and bureaucratic billion-pound ministerial takeover of social care that we are set to debate this week. In every case, taxpayers and public services are expected to pay the price.

The Government is out of touch and is taking people for granted. One thing that it must realise is that it needs the talents of everyone in order to grow the economy and make our country fairer. There is an intrinsic link between the health of our people and the health of our economy. People are waiting in pain for long-overdue operations. Their conditions are worsening by the day. It can take years for people to get the mental health treatment that they desperately need, which means that they cannot get on in life. There are now around 200,000 people in Scotland who are out of work because of mental ill health, long Covid and long-term conditions. According to the Our Scottish Future think tank, that costs our economy £870 million a year.

The longer people are out of work, the worse their prospects become. The longer they wait to be treated, the greater the cost to the NHS. That is why making yet another cut to overwhelmed mental health services makes no sense whatsoever.

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Lib Dems mark 2 years since invasion of Ukraine

Two years ago we all woke up to the awful news that Russia, after lots of menacing, had finally invaded Ukraine. Honestly, not many of us gave the Ukrainians much chance in fending them off. That they are still standing is down to their charismatic leader and a huge international effort.

Ed Davey said:

We stand with all Ukrainians as they bravely and brilliantly resist the Russian war machine.

The UK will continue to aid their fight for their country, for their democracy and for their freedom.

Sarah Green said:

Today we mark the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine (not forgetting the invasion of Crimea in 2014). We must continue to stand with the Ukrainian people – Putin’s aggression cannot be allowed to prevail.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton is marking the anniversary by urging the UK and Scottish governments to expand their support for the country.

Mr Cole-Hamilton is calling on the UK government to widen sanctions against those on the “Navalny list” and for the Scottish Government to deliver transparency over who owns land in Scotland as well as to support the 1 in 10 Ukrainians in Scotland who remain in temporary accommodation.

At 11am this morning he will lay a wreath at the National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle to commemorate the Ukrainians who have died in the fighting.

Alex said:

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Lib Dems react to Alexei Navalny’s death

Lib Dems have been reacting to the shocking news of Alexei Navalny’s death.

Ed Davey said:

Horrified by reports of the death of Alexei Navalny – at the hands of Putin, no doubt.

Putin’s despicable methods might be to kill his enemies, but he will never kill the light of freedom and democracy which Navalny has stood for so courageously.

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton attended a vigil last night at the Russian Consulate in Edinburgh:

It was a privilege to join Russian citizens outside the Consulate this evening in a vigil for the life of Alexei #Navalny, murdered by the Putin kleptocracy today. Their defiance and their desire to follow Navalny’s dream of a free and democratic Russia was inspiring.

This is nothing short of state sanctioned murder. Putin will never brook any form of opposition and Navalny presented so many young Russians with the hope of a future free from corruption and Tsarist fascism.

Putin is a despot and a war criminal.

Lib Dem Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran said:

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Alex Cole-Hamilton’s Christmas message

Alex Cole-Hamilton’s Christmas message is below:

Christmas is a time for reflection, and I think it’s important to look back on the long road travelled since last year.

Just twelve months ago Nicola Sturgeon was the most powerful figure in Scottish politics. Now her reputation lies in tatters.

The SNP in government are badly diminished by scandal, infighting and more than a decade of neglect of public services which has led to record NHS waiting lists and our schools slipping down the international rankings.

Twelve months ago the Conservatives were in utter chaos… so some things don’t change.

While the Conservatives and SNP flounder, Scottish Liberal Democrats have never shied away from making the case for action on the two biggest issues facing our country: the cost of living and the crisis in our NHS.

We have also led the way on other matters, offering considered and constructive solutions to the challenges facing our country.

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Why would you cut energy efficiency funding in a climate emergency – Alex Cole-Hamilton

Yesterday’s Scottish Budget hit the headlines because of the introduction of a new top tax rate for higher earners, and a rise in tax for the richest. But there were some real devils in the detail.

The BBC’s report states that:

Plans to accelerate clean heating systems will receive £358m of funding.

This might be fine, but the figure last year was £367.5 million.

They have also cut the funding for fuel poverty and housing quality from £21.8 million to £1.7 million.

And that is before you even start to mention the effective cut to Council budgets because of the Council Tax freeze. A report last week suggested that a quarter of Scottish Councils fear bankruptcy.

Alex said in response to Finance Secretary Shona Robison’s statement:

The SNP has spent years ignoring expert warnings about the lack of a long-term economic strategy and the impact of its failure to grow the economy. Scotland needs predictability and a long-term plan for tax and the wider economy, not erratic changes that will undermine confidence.

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Scottish Conference: Nazanin, new faces and the rise of the mini motion

Scottish Lib Dem Autumn Conference in Edinburgh yesterday was an absolute blast and showed the party at its best. I love going to Conference and catching up with old friends, but this time there were so many new people to get to know as well.

One of them, Lauren Buchanan-Quigley from Dunfermline, criticised the UK Government for trying to force disabled people back into work without ensuring that workplaces were accessible. She talked also about the scandal of people with assistance dogs being denied access to hospitals.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have led the way on pressing the Scottish Government to do more to help Councils deal with the problems associated with Reinforced Autoclaved Aereated Concrete. Conference passed a motion, proposed by West Lothian’s Lib Dem Councillor  Sally Pattle, calling on the Government to provide funding to local authorities to deal with this and to compensate those, like West Lothian, who have already spent millions on it.

The Leader

Alex Cole-Hamilton was confident of Lib Dem gains come the election in places like Mid Dunbartonshire where Susan Murray hopes to take the seat once held by Jo Swinson and the new version of Charles Kennedy’s old seat where Angus MacDonald is  in a very good position.

His leader’s speech had two big new ideas – using the Barnett Consequentials from our trebling of the Digital Services Tax, paid by social media companies, to pay for better mental health support for young people, and a Clean Water Act to protect our waterways from pollution.

And I know many people reading this will be delighted by what he had to say on Europe:

Conference the European project represents the most important plan for peace in the whole of human history. It ended centuries of war.

And while, by slim majority, the citizens of these islands chose to turn their backs on that, we, the Liberal Democrats, will never turn away from it.

We will never let go of the inescapable reality that our country was simply better off as a full member of the European Union.

The Tories have set fire to all the goodwill and understanding that existed with our European neighbours. They have made our road back to Europe all the longer, all the harder.

But it is a road we have already started out upon.

Conference, be in no doubt of our commitment to that aim. Realistic, pragmatic, remorseless.

We are already building bridges, re-establishing connections amid the seeds of common understanding in the British people of the hideous calamity of Brexit.

Mark my words, it may not be this coming General Election, but one day an election will come where a chance to reclaim our European membership is on the ballot paper. We will be at the heart of that.

My commitment to you is this. I have spent the vast majority of my life a citizen of both the United Kingdom and of the European Union. It is my intention to leave this life a citizen of both as well.

I reckon the sky would not fall in if Ed said something like that.

Alex was introduced on to the stage by Gloria Adebo, our brilliant candidate in the recent Rutherglen and Hamilton South by-election.

Nazanin and Richard

One of the most moving sessions was an interview, hosted by Christine Jardine, with Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe and Richard Ratcliffe. Christine said she still has the blue flower Richard gave her when she went to visit him outside the Iranian Embassy when he was on hunger strike during Nazanin’s six year imprisonment in Iran.

Nazanin and Richard want British citizens to have a right to consular protection after the Foreign Office was so slow to help her. At the moment, the commitment is dependent on ministerial whim, and, if ministers are reshuffled, you have to build the relationship up all over again.

The Guardian has reported on Nazanin’s comments about how difficult it was for her to readjust to freedom and of her worries for her family and friends back in Iran.

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Alex and Wendy go paddleboarding – the new Scottish Liberal Democrat broadcast

Last night the new Scottish Liberal Democrats PPB, featuring Alex Cole-Hamilton and Wendy Chamberlain was broadcast. Enjoy

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Cole-Hamilton calls for Illegal Migration Bill to be scrapped

Today is World Humanitarian Day. According to the United Nations website:

This year, our World Humanitarian Day campaign brings together the global humanitarian community to mark the twentieth anniversary of the attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, and to show our unwavering commitment to deliver for the communities we serve, no matter who, no matter where and #NoMatterWhat.

Humanitarians have no other purpose than to save and protect lives and deliver the basic necessities of life, they stand shoulder to shoulder with the communities they serve and bring hope.

On 19 August, we come together to honour humanitarians around the world who strive to meet ever-growing global needs. No matter the danger or the hardship, humanitarians venture deep into disaster-stricken regions and on the front lines of conflict, strive to save and protect people in need.

Alex Cole-Hamilton has used his remarks on World Humanitarian Day to call for the scrapping of the Illegal Migration Bill:

Across the globe, the scale of human suffering is horrific.

Crises like those in Yemen and Afghanistan, the war in Ukraine and years of devastating civil war in South Sudan are just some examples of why we must use our freedoms to speak out in support of those who are persecuted and oppressed.

As we remember those atrocities, it’s also important that we mark the unwavering bravery of those who delve into them, endeavouring to protect and save the lives of those in need.

Those humanitarian efforts serve as an inspiration to my party, and that is why Scottish Liberal Democrats want to see both our governments playing their part to further our humanitarian objectives.

The UK Government must scrap their Illegal Migration Bill, which would only demonise the desperate and make the circumstances of some of the most vulnerable people on our planet even worse. We must strengthen support for those fleeing to our shores, implementing measures which will allow people to meaningfully rebuild their lives far from home.

Crucially, we must continue to prioritise tackling the climate emergency in our international work as it is often poorer countries which are left to deal with the gravest consequences of that emergency.

On World Humanitarian Day and beyond, Scottish Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for equality, justice and liberty for all.

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Cole-Hamilton: Reasonable minded people are re-thinking their support for the SNP

In a way I feel a bit sorry for Humza Yousaf.  Not because he’s taken over a failing Government that he has been a part of, but because of the way his party is imploding around him in a way that he probably didn’t expect. He definitely knew that he was inheriting a deeply divided party, but maybe didn’t realise that the chalice was so full of poison.

Since his election as First Minister 3 weeks ago, two senior figures in the SNP have been arrested and released without charge in an investigation in to the Party’s finances and he has discovered that the party’s auditors resigned six months ago. You can tell that my husband is getting way too interested in this story because he’s been getting adverts for camper vans on Facebook. Yesterday he faced the press in an encounter that will be shown at media training courses as an example as how not to do it for years to come:

We’ve been very used to Nicola Sturgeon’s very controlled media appearances for the past 8 years, so this was a massive contrast. Journalist Rob Hutton’s critique was brutal:

And let’s be clear, these surely are his thoughts, unmediated by anything as sophisticated as “spin” or “damage control”. The first minister seems to be gripped by a compulsion to speak whatever words have just popped into his brain, without the slightest consideration about what impact this might have on the situation. It’s compulsive viewing, the political equivalent of watching a toddler determinedly trying to work a fork into an electrical socket.

Our Rural Affairs spokesperson Molly Nolan drew another comparison on Twitter:

I know there’s many more pressing things going on at the moment but good grief. Mr Bean himself would surely have given a better interview than this

It was not the best build up to Yousaf’s big moment when he unveiled his programme for Government at Holyrood yesterday. And to be honest it wasn’t so much a programme for Government as a series of screeching U-turns. The deeply flawed deposit return scheme paused till next year, their flagship National Care Service paused. Those are both welcome, but I mean, if the only headlines that come out of such a statement is what you are not doing, you are in trouble.

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said that our party will be part of the change that is coming:

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Polls put SNP majority in doubt

Humza Yousaf has been Scotland’s First Minister for 5 days and it looks as though he’s not going to get a honeymoon. Two polls this week have shown the SNP vote falling and Labour surging while Lib Dems look as though we will gain and, in Alex Cole-Hamilton’s catchphrase of the moment, “be part of what’s next”

A Savanta poll published on Friday put us on 7 seats, giving us and Labour 49 seats between us. Between 2007 and 2011, the SNP minority government had just  47 MSPs.

This weekend, a Sunday Times/Pnaelbase poll showed a slightly different outcome, but still a significant drop for the SNP.

Humza Yousaf’s win by the cursed ratio of 52% to 48% means that the divisions opened up by a febrile campaign will be more difficult to heal. The refusal of Kate Forbes to take the post of Rural Affairs Secretary, a role which would have put her on a collision course with the Greens over the introduction of controversial Highly Protected Marine Areas  leaves her as a powerful rallying point on the back benches.

Unforced errors such as abolishing the job of Social Security Minister, sending its previous holder Ben Macpherson to the backbenches, have also raised concerns. It seems ridiculous to have a Minister for Independence and not one to be over the transfer of disability benefits to the new Scottish Social Security Agency.

The commentary on Yousaf’s debut at First Minister’s Questions was not positive. In fact, the Herald’s Tom Gordon  was brutal:

The banks of schoolkids flagged visibly, hating their teachers, hating democracy.

It was like detention without end. Oh, think of the children!

On and on Mr Yousaf went, clubbing his audience with the cliches of Nicola Sturgeon and the charm of Alex Salmond in a lift.

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Now for a better country – Alex Cole-Hamilton’s pitch for First Minister

Alex Cole-Hamilton’s speech to Holyrood when he stood for First Minister on Tuesday is below. He knew he would lose, obviously, with only 4 MSPs. However a Birgitte Nyborg moment was not what he was going for. It was a simple choice between getting on the news setting out a Liberal Democrat Vision for Scotland or not. Enjoy. The text from the Official Report is below.

 

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Humza Yousaf narrowly elected as Scotland’s First Minister

When Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf entered the room at Murrayfield for the announcement of the SNP leadership election, Kate was smiling and looking like she had not a care in the world. Humza’s face was in his boots and he looked like he had the weight o the world on his shoulders.

I thought that Kate had won, but when the result came through, and Humza was proclaimed leader, you can maybe understand why he looked so miserable.

His margin of victory was that cursed ration of 52.1% to 47.9% over Kate Forbes, and we all know from Brexit how difficult it is to manage a situation where almost half of people are against you. On first preferences, he had 48% of the vote to Kate Forbes 40% and Ash Regan’s 11.1%, but Regan’s transfers broke overwhelmingly for Forbes.

There will be some relief in Scotland’s LGBT community that Yousaf, out of the three, has won. During the campaign, Kate Forbes expressed her opposition to same sex marriage and both she and Regan made clear their opposition to  the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

The leadership campaign was at times absolutely vicious. Kate Forbes demolition of his record in office may well come back to haunt the soon to be First Minister. In the first major debate, she basically told him he was being moved from his Health portfolio if she won, and said:

“You were a transport minister and the trains were never on time, when you were justice secretary the police were stretched to breaking point, and now as health minister we’ve got record high waiting times – what makes you think you can do a better job as first minister?”

The thing I found most weird, having spent my Summer three years ago, along with many others, phone canvassing in our leadership election, that the SNP didn’t allow their candidates to have membership data in order to canvass. Maybe that explains the low turnout of 70% in such a fiercely fought election for, effectively, the leader of the country.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton congratulated Humza but did not hold back about the challenge ahead of him:

I would like to congratulate Humza Yousaf on becoming the first minority ethnic leader of his party.

“Scotland is crying out for a First Minister who will put the people’s priorities first and be a leader for the whole country.

“There are huge challenges facing our country but sadly Humza Yousaf has not proven equal to those challenges in his previous roles. That’s not just my verdict but that of his colleague Kate Forbes.

“On his watch, 1 in 7 Scots are on a waiting list and his NHS recovery plan has completely failed to tackle crises in A&E, cancer care, mental health and dentistry.

“Reasonable, fair-minded people are turning away from the SNP and looking for someone who will fight their corner. This country is ready for change and Scottish Liberal Democrats will be part of what’s next.”

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WATCH: Alex Cole-Hamilton’s speech to Scottish Conference

Below, in full, you can watch and read Alex Cole-Hamilton’s speech to Scottish Lib Dem Conference. In it he paid tribute to Kira Rudik, Leader of our sister party Golos, who addressed the Conference this morning.  He also, of course, celebrated our spectacular by-election victory in Edinburgh yesterday. But he also went further than any Lib Dem I have heard recently on talking about the need for closer ties with Europe and about the failures of Brexit:

Friends, Boris Johnson said that Ukraine should be at the front of the queue to join the European Union. He’s not wrong, but just think about that for a minute.

After all his Brexit lies, that really grated, but it was recognition of the value and protection working with our European neighbours offers in terms of security and prosperity.

We should be more united than ever with our nearest neighbours in the face of Russian aggression, the climate emergency, and the mass displacement of people.

Our economic growth is below that of Russia, investment is down, empty shelves, skills shortages, diminished on the world stage.

Conference, Brexit has been a disaster.

I still grieve for what we have lost.

Charles Kennedy used to say that he was a Highlander, a Scot, a Brit and a European. Each was a critical part of his identity, without contradiction or conflict.

Conference, make no mistake, Scottish Liberal Democrats are the most pro-European party there is. We do not apologise for it, and we do not deny it.

I am a European to my fingertips. I believe in Europe for Europe’s sake.

Conference, it is my mission to untangle the problems,

to re-establish cultural and economic ties,

to build back our close connections,

to forge relationships with our European friends.

It means re-establishing Erasmus, as our party has done in Wales.

Getting back into the Horizon university research funding scheme.

Mutual recognition of trades and professions so people can work across the UK and EU.

We should be optimistic about the demonstrable shift in public opinion towards re-engaging with the European Union, and we should harness that.

This country needs a party that will propose practical, tangible solutions to bring us closer to Europe.

Conference, we are the ones they are looking for.

Because you can take us out of Europe, but you’ll never take Europe out of us.

Watch here

The full text is below:

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WATCH: Alex Cole-Hamilton defend Scotland’s place in the UK in Oxford Union debate

Alex Cole-Hamilton recently took part in an Oxford Union debate on Scottish independence. His side, opposing the motion that “This House would support an independent Scotland” won comfortably.

Watch his speech here:

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One year ago today …

Embed from Getty Images

Liberal Democrats have been commenting on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ed Davey said:

Today all of us will be thinking of the Ukrainian families split up by Putin’s invasion. We will be thinking of those who have lost a loved one and those who fight for Ukraine’s freedom.

Over the past year we have seen amazing acts of heroism in Ukraine as well as unflinching unity across Europe and our politics in the UK.

We will never forget the suffering of the Ukrainian people at the hands of Putin’s barbaric regime and we will stand in solidarity with Ukraine until they achieve victory.

Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

Almost one year ago today, our world shifted on its axis as Russian soldiers, tanks and instruments of war crossed the border and rolled into the sovereign territory of Ukraine. It spelled what so many of us had hoped we would never see again- war in Europe.

Putin’s invasion is an assault on diplomacy and democracy, on peace and freedom. In places like Bucha and Irpin, he has sanctioned unimaginable atrocities. He does not belong in the Kremlin; he belongs in the Hague.

As I reflect on the suffering that the Ukrainian people have endured, it has become terrifyingly clear that the liberal and democratic structures we take so much for granted can be so easily taken from us.

That is why we must defend the values that unite us and support our Ukrainian friends as they rebuild their lives so far away from home.

In Scotland, people have shown an overwhelming amount of collective generosity as they open up their homes to refugees fleeing the conflict. I am immeasurably proud of work taking place in my own constituency of Edinburgh Western, where Volunteer Edinburgh have done an incredible job at greeting displaced Ukrainians and coordinating donations, learning centres and other opportunities across the city.

Today, the world remembers everything that has been lost. But we also hope that one day soon, Ukraine will once again enjoy its blue skies of freedom.

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Cole-Hamilton: People need change, not endless independence navel gazing

On the weekend that various SNP leadership bids are launched, Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton set out this party’s priorities for Government.

Two things have cheered him this week. First a poll suggesting that we would double our Holyrood group to 8 if there were a Scottish election today.

The second was unexpectedly finding himself on a list of potential successors to Nicola Sturgeon:

Seriously, I think we are much more lead than the SNP at the moment. I doubt he’ll be thinking the grass is greener.

Anyway, Alex made his remarks about the priorities for the next First Minister at the start of an action day in the Corstorphine/Murrayfield by-election in the heart of his Edinburgh Western constituency. I’m more surprised, to be honest, that organiser Ed and campaign manager Kevin Lang allowed activists to stand still for long enough to listen to him on the weekend before postal votes land. This is what he said:

Nicola Sturgeon’s launched ferries with painted on windows and failed to close the attainment gap in our schools. Drug deaths many times worse than anywhere else in Europe and a stagnant economy are the consequence of years of ministerial disinterest. The delivery rarely lived up to the hype.

I’m challenging the leadership contenders to recognise where timeworn SNP policies have failed to deliver for the NHS, schools, the economy and the efforts to reduce Scotland’s emissions.

I’ve set out positive policies for the would-be candidates today because being open to ideas from the opposition benches is a sign of good government. With three years until the next scheduled Holyrood election, people have the right to see change, not more of the same.

We will work hard to move the debate on from the divisions of the past because people can’t wait for years behind yet more arguments and navel-gazing about independence. All of the good things we want to do can’t play second fiddle any longer. Scotland needs new hope, right now.

When it comes to breaking up the UK, no price is too high and no amount of disruption too painful for the nationalists. Scottish Liberal Democrats will stand up for communities around the country being totally taken for granted by this SNP Government.

He is asking the SNP leadership contenders to do five things:

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