Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, cost of living crisis, Queen Elizabeth's death, and three Prime Ministers make 2022 one of the worst in recent times – Alex Cole-Hamilton
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It began with the spectre of war. Putin amassed troops on the Ukrainian border before the turn of the year, but I’m not sure many observers thought he was serious. Then on February 24, our world shifted on its axis. The Russian war machine rolled into Ukraine and the long peace between East and West following the fall of the Berlin Wall came to an end.
Like most people I was devastated and enraged. The images of destruction and atrocities from Mariupol, Kharkiv and Bucha may come to define our century. I have never cared more for the plight of people I will never meet. Along with my family, I attended and spoke at many demonstrations outside the Russian Consulate in Melville Street. By August, I found myself sanctioned by the Kremlin and barred from Russian territory – a badge of honour.
History may remember the speed with which Britain responded with support for Zelensky’s government, but that will be seen as a rare highlight in Boris Johnson’s ignominious administration. His behaviour and contempt for the people he governed finally caught up with him, a belated but welcome victory for the old-fashioned idea that standards and fidelity matter in public life.
Conservative members then elected Liz Truss as leader and she was duly appointed Prime Minister by the Queen. Just three days later, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II slipped away from us. She had been such a constant in our lives and the life of our nation, she more than earned the widespread outpouring of grief and praise with which people around the world greeted her passing. I was honoured to attend her funeral and address the new King in the Scottish Parliament on behalf of my party.
What followed was perhaps the strangest episode in British political history. With her disastrous mini-budget, Liz Truss crashed the economy and destroyed her party’s economic reputation. My children insisted that we bring up YouTube as we watched her resignation. They wanted to see the lettuce win in real time. Millions are now paying the price for her catastrophic leadership after her recklessness compounded the devastating cost-of-living emergency.
I’ll finish with a couple of personal reflections. This has been a positive year for the Scottish Liberal Democrats. We surprised everyone and gained more seats than any other opposition party at the council elections in May, a big leap forward. That means an extra 255,000 Scots now have a councillor who will fight for them all year round. There’s a real sense we are coming back to strength.
Finally, my own household has changed in ways I would not have predicted this time last year. It has expanded to include a brick-red cockapoo and a Ukrainian design graduate. One is helping us to escape the shadow of lockdown that we didn’t even realise we had been labouring under, the other is escaping the horrors of war and starting to build a new life here. Both have enriched our lives in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western