SNP support is evaporating on the doorsteps. In nearly 25 years of campaigning, I've never known anything like it – Alex Cole-Hamilton

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There are two words in democracies the world over that politicians crave and fear in equal measure: ‘cut through’.

If you’re successful and in charge of the political agenda, your policies and your messaging can achieve the kind of cut-through which sees you capture the imagination of the people you’re trying to win over. It can lead to recognition, momentum and, ultimately, victory.

However, if you’re on the back foot, mired in controversy or scandal, the coverage of those problems will often generate a cut-through of its own. If you’re not careful, they can define how the public sees you. Right now, the SNP are wallowing in the latter.

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Last weekend I was out campaigning on the doorsteps of East Dunbartonshire. With an SNP majority of just 149 votes, it’s one of the most knife-edge seats in Britain and the Scottish Liberal Democrats are on course to win it back. I can honestly say that, in nearly 25 years of campaigning, I’ve never known anything like what I encountered there on Saturday. The SNP vote seems to be in a state of near-total collapse.

Lifelong SNP voters, even members, are actively seeking out the party best placed to defeat the nationalists locally, so angry are they over the revelations about secrecy and alleged financial irregularity within the party of government. Everyone was aware of the police investigation, everyone had a view about the more bizarre revelations that keep surfacing, week after week in this torrid affair.

It’s easy to forget just how quickly the SNP hegemony of Scottish politics was established. They made big, sweeping promises that fell painfully short of delivery. Ferries. Education. Our NHS. Thanks to the SNP, it's hard not to associate these words with at least some sense of crisis.

People trusted that Sturgeon would have a plan for all those unanswered questions on independence, but answers there were none. Support for the SNP may have been a mile wide at one point, but it has only ever been two inches deep. Pull the plug and it will drain away just as rapidly as it emerged.

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We need a change of government in Holyrood just as badly as we need a change of government in Westminster. While the SNP fall inwards, my party and I are reaching out, listening to local voices and offering positive solutions.

Humza Yousaf's SNP is haemorrhaging support (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Humza Yousaf's SNP is haemorrhaging support (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Humza Yousaf's SNP is haemorrhaging support (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Take our candidate in East Dunbartonshire, Susan Murray, who is campaigning tirelessly for a new health and care centre for the constituency. She's demanding a sewage leak near a playpark is cleared up and the repair of dangerous potholes on the roads. Why? Because these are the areas that demand attention.

Scottish Liberal Democrats across Scotland are doing just the same. We’ve set out plans to train and retain NHS staff and reform dentistry to bring down waits, to cut costs for parents and support children’s development by extending free early learning and childcare, to ramp up the insulation of our cold homes, and to stop the dumping of sewage on our beaches and in our rivers.

As 16 years of failure by the SNP gets more and more cut-through, chaos engulfs the party, and our public services disintegrate, it’s time to get back to focusing on what really matters.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western

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