Alex Cole-Hamilton: Independence is diminishing and nearly out of sight

People across Scotland want a focus on the cost of living crisis and the issues in the NHS, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats told STV News.

Alex Cole-Hamilton: Why you will seldom hear me mention Scottish independence Getty Images

The question of whether Scotland should be an independent country has diminished and is nearly “out of sight”, Alex Cole-Hamilton has said, as Scots demand a focus on issues such as the cost of living crisis.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats leader told STV News that the old divisions of the past were fading and that voters were increasingly ready to move on to a new kind of politics.

Speaking ahead of his party’s conference in Hamilton this weekend, the Edinburgh Western MSP said he was ready to work with other parties to tackle the issues that matter most to Scots.

But he added that both the SNP and the Tories represented “all that’s wrong with politics at the moment” and said he wanted to be part of the seismic change he predicts will come at the next UK and Scottish elections.

Alex Cole-Hamilton suggested that he wanted arguments around independence to be replaced with ones on issues such as the cost of living crisis and the NHS.Getty Images

Polling suggests the LibDems could increase their number of MPs and MSPs at the two ballots, scheduled sometime this year and in 2026 respectively.

He told STV that his campaigning wouldn’t focus on what he said was the politics of old though and would instead tackle the issues that Scots face each day.

Asked whether there were hopes to repair an increasingly divided Scottish Parliament, he said: “With that now a decade-long question of yes versus no, nationalist versus unionist, you will very seldom hear me mention the word independence, or constitution or anything like that.

“I am desperate to get to a kind of politics where we can talk about getting you in front of your GP at the first time of asking or increasing the performance of your kids’ school.

“This is what people sent me to Parliament to deal with – not fight the battles of the past.”

He said Scotland is “ready to move on” and that the “salience of this question has diminished almost out of sight”.

“People want politicians to tackle the cost of living,” he added, “the health emergency, long Covid, sewage in our rivers – the things that keep them awake at night, and the things that keep me awake at night.

“And I think we are on the threshold of change.

“And I think once we move back into that space where we’re talking about the things that people actually want us to talk about you’ll see a lot of that rancour and that division diminish because ultimately it won’t be sort of turbocharged by that toxicity that has undermined our politics for so long.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton said he wanted liberal voices to be part of the decision-making process following the next election.Getty Images

Cole-Hamilton said he predicted big change in both Westminster and Holyrood.

He said his party could work with whoever forms the next UK and Scottish governments.

“Now, I made no precondition on what that looks like, we’ve shown in Edinburgh that we don’t actually need to be in power,” he said.

“We don’t need to be in administration to wield power.

“But I don’t fear ministerial office, I got into politics to make a difference to do right by my community, and to extend my liberal values.

“And you don’t always get to do that from the opposition.

“So I think there’s a huge opportunity for liberal voices to be heard in a strong and powerful way in the next Scottish Parliament.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code