Scottish Liberal Democrats are a pro-Union Green party that will stand up to SNP intrusion into our daily lives – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP
I like unusual words and my favourite describes the Scottish Liberal Democrats (of which I became leader on Friday) down to the ground.
That word is ‘panglossian’ and it means: “Relentlessly optimistic in the face of overwhelming odds.” That attitude attracted me to the Lib Dems in the first place. We see the best in things and if something isn’t working, we try to fix it or fight for reform.
In terms of things that aren’t working, we currently face a target-rich environment.
The measure of effective government is in the delivery of public services. Never is that more true than in a time of national crisis. The pandemic demanded every ounce of the government’s attention, but it also allowed ministers to set aside the hard stuff.
There are warning lights blinking across the public-policy dashboard: the educational attainment gap; missed climate targets; record mental health waits; the threadbare state of our police force; patients in pain being told their treatment will start in 12 weeks, when there isn’t a chance they’ll be seen in 50.
All of these are matters of policy that present a problem for the SNP and it used the emergency to defer action on them. Yet, despite all that, on the eve of a deadly second wave, the First Minister found time and space for a bill about another independence referendum.
There is a muscle memory to the politics of Scotland. We are told that each vote cast is either a mandate for another referendum or the only means of stopping it.
This has become the full extent of public debate in our country and our citizens are suffering because of it. Our progress is stifled by a clash of nationalisms, the Scottish Nationalism of the SNP, but also the Brexit nationalism of Boris Johnson’s Conservative party.
We are a people trapped between flags, between politicians who mythologise and pine for ancient nations and borders, when the world has moved on and demands international co-operation. Put simply, if this boils down to a choice between those two nationalisms, then everybody loses.
After everything we’ve been through, Scotland needs new hope right now.
My task as leader will be to offer that hope to the many people who stand where we do. Those who want a party that will fight the climate emergency with ferocity but without the baggage of nationalism that inexplicably comes with the Greens.
I want to offer them a vision of a Scotland that is a world leader in innovation and green manufacturing. One that captures the imagination of the world, through our entrepreneurs and industry. A Scotland which offers the best education in the world, which values its carers and those they care for and stands unwaveringly for human rights at home and abroad.
Under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats will lead a parliamentary response to the mental health catastrophe, and we will continue to stand as the only guardians against state intrusion in your life, the steady creep of big centralising government that is the hallmark of the SNP.
Put your faith in us again and I promise you, that Liberal Democrats in the villages and towns of Scotland will show you the meaning of the word hope once again.
Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western