Alex Cole-Hamilton: Criticism of SNP policies is vital

THE duty of a healthy opposition is to point out where a government is failing its people, says Alex Cole-Hamilton.

Friday, 8th April 2016, 9:21 am
Updated Friday, 8th April 2016, 9:23 am
The Lib Dems want to stave off the GP recruitment crisis. File picture: PA

There’s an aspect of elections that most people don’t get to see, I call it the “green room”. It’s a warmth between opponents shared off stage at hustings events or campaign stops. It’s a mutual respect for the fact that, in the main, we’re all here from a sense of public duty. I’ve found that warmth in both my Labour and Conservative opponents since we were selected. However, I’ve had little contact with our local SNP hopeful, Toni Guigliano, since he blocked me and a large number of his constituents on Twitter last summer.

So if the pages of the Evening News are the only place that we are to converse, then in response to Toni’s article of March 31, accusing me of negative campaigning, I offer this in reply.

Toni, I’m sorry you’ve been offended. But I don’t think that drawing attention to the failings of your government or your local representatives should be viewed as underhand, I’d view it as the democratic duty of a healthy opposition.

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When the person you asked us to vote for last May turns up for fewer than half of the votes in the House of Commons since September then I think that as your nearest challenger, I should voice the view of the significant majority of those in our constituency who feel that’s just not good enough.

When your ministers preside over a year on year decline in the global rankings of our education system, the shambolic and unwanted centralisation of public services or a waiting times crisis in our health service, then someone should point out that we deserve much better.

Now, I understand it’s hard for you. The constitution of the SNP prohibits you from openly criticising your party or its policies. But I’m not in your party so I can provide a counterpoint to the nationalist dogma that is currently choking Scottish Politics.

The SNP seeks to shut down dissent in communities across Scotland with online intimidation and ridicule, your own campaign team engages in 
this on a regular basis. Yet here I still am.

John F Kennedy said that “without debate, without criticism no administration can succeed and no republic can survive”. Whilst the SNP may win another landslide (and I think that would be terrible for our democracy if they do), there will always be people like me across the chamber, offering that debate and that criticism. Don’t try to shut it down.

My campaign has been about policy from the start, after all the Lib Dems have got a cracking offer to take to the electorate: A transformational year on year investment of £500m in education through nurseries, schools and reversing SNP cuts to 152,000 college places; a reconfigured health budget that staves off the GP recruitment crisis whilst putting mental health on an equal footing in primary care; and a resolute commitment to protecting the environment and defending civil liberties.

My campaign is about offering my local community something better. Better than the policies of a government which puts its obsession with independence before the needs of our public services. Better than the substandard service we have had to put up with from the local nationalist MP over this last year. It’s a positive message which is resonating with more and more people across West Edinburgh.

• Alex Cole-Hamilton is Liberal Democrat candidate for Edinburgh Western