Carrying forward Charles Kennedy’s legacy with pride - Alex Cole-Hamilton

Angus MacDonald is elected to the Inverness, Skye, and West Ross-shire constituencyAngus MacDonald is elected to the Inverness, Skye, and West Ross-shire constituency
Angus MacDonald is elected to the Inverness, Skye, and West Ross-shire constituency
In June 1983, something brilliant happened. A young Highlander and exceptionally talented debater was elected to represent the constituency of Ross, Skye and Cromarty. At 23 his election made him the youngest sitting member of parliament in the House of Commons.

To this day, you can’t really think of the Liberal Democrats without also thinking of Charles Kennedy. Charles embodied the compassion, fairness and humanity that all of us, as liberals, hope for in ourselves.

Above all, Charles believed in the importance of listening to others and listening well. He knew that we should listen not necessarily to reply, but to learn and understand. And he knew that by understanding, those with a voice in parliament could make a real difference to the lives of the people they were there to represent. When we lost Charles, it felt like we lost that wisdom. Politics has always been something of a noisy business, but its clamour seemed to grow more vicious after he was gone. Ever since, I think our politics has been a little dimmer, a little darker.

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This was a record-breaking election for the Liberal Democrats, so in many ways it was fitting that its very last declaration saw his seat brought back into the Liberal Democrat fold as Angus MacDonald became our sensational sixth MP in Scotland.

It is humbling that so many people right across the UK chose to place their trust in us. We will repay it in full by working day-in, day-out as a local champion for our communities. Our MPs will do exactly what they said they would do, focusing on what really matters including the cost of living crisis, the sewage scandal, the NHS and care.

We now have 72 MPs – surpassing even Charles Kennedy’s record result and making ours the strongest third party for a century. We’ve turned huge swathes of Scotland a bright, beaming Liberal Democrat gold, taking chunks out of the SNP’s acid yellow wall. Conservative cabinet ministers were toppled and we even took the constituencies of former prime ministers David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

It’s a huge leap forward, and in the days, weeks and months ahead, the Liberal Democrats will show that we are a compelling and credible voice for change. With our strengthened position in the UK Parliament, we now have more opportunities to lead debates on the issues that matter to you. We can hold the government to account with two guaranteed Prime Minister’s Questions every week. We’ll use our seats on the green benches to fight for a more just, open and equal society.

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Whatever his view, Charles always listened to evidence and advice, made arguments based on reason, listened to those with whom he disagreed and responded with respect. He knew that this was the kind of constructive political discourse that got things done. In an increasingly divided and hostile world, we need that now more than ever.

So, as we look ahead to this new government and to this new parliament, Scottish Liberal Democrats will carry forward Charles’ legacy with pride and put public service back into the beating heart of our politics.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats