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by Louise Wilson
28 July 2021
Lib Dem and Labour coalition could be ‘progressive alternative’ to SNP, says Alex Cole-Hamilton

Colin Fisher / Alamy Stock Photo

Lib Dem and Labour coalition could be ‘progressive alternative’ to SNP, says Alex Cole-Hamilton

Scottish Lib Dem leadership hopeful Alex Cole-Hamilton has said he would work with Labour to create a “progressive alternative” to the SNP.

He also said the party wanted to “draw a line under” the coalition years with the Conservatives, which played a role in the party losing several MSPs in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election.

Speaking at the launch of his leadership campaign, Cole-Hamilton said he did not “fear power” and commended the “very successful” coalition the party had with Scottish Labour in the past.

He said: “It’s inevitable that if we to see a change in government from the SNP, who have stagnated with 14 years in power, then we need to seek out a progressive alternative.

“That might be coalition with Labour – but I’m not saying that’s a given.

“There is still a great distance between me and the Labour party on many, many things.”

He added: “It’s not rocket science to say that, in a devolved administration with proportional representation electoral system, it is geared around these coalitions. I don’t fear that.

“I like working with people. I work right across the chamber to great effect – with the Conservatives, with Labour, with the SNP, on issue-by-issue basis.”

Cole-Hamilton said he has a “great personal friendship” with Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar, adding there was “a lot of common ground”.

But when asked whether he would ever approach the Scottish Conservatives for a deal, he said there was not “common ground enough for that sort of formal coalition to ever happen”.

He also accused Tory leader Douglas Ross of “toxic British nationalism”, which he claimed was “part of the problem” in Scotland.

He said: “When Douglas Ross, in the election, wrote to Willie Rennie, wrote to Anas, he said a ‘pan-unionist alliance’ – the subtext of that is, we have the subscribe to the Conservative view of what the union looks like.

“I passionately believe in Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom, but I don’t believe in the Conservative vision of what that should look like.”

But he added he would continue to work with the Conservatives on “articulating our place in the United Kingdom”.

He also said the SNP did not have a mandate to hold another independence referendum, insisting it had been “tainted” because the focus of the recent election had been on COVID, not the constitution.

Cole-Hamilton is broadly expected to become the next leader of the Scottish Lib Dems and is so far the only candidate to declare his intention to stand.

Willie Rennie announced he would stand down earlier this month after 11 years in post.

Candidates have until 20 August to submit their nomination.

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