Edinburgh MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton cleared over election spending

LIBERAL Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton has hit out at the SNP after the Electoral Commission cleared him of alleged irregularities in election spending.
Alex Cole-Hamilton has been cleared.Alex Cole-Hamilton has been cleared.
Alex Cole-Hamilton has been cleared.

He accused the Nationalists of “a wilful disregard of both the democratic process and the public good” over the complaints made to the police and the election watchdog which saw his 2016 campaign accounts examined with a fine tooth comb over a period of more than two years.

The Edinburgh Western MSP – who won the seat from the SNP at the 2016 Holyrood election – was referred to Police Scotland by local Nationalist activists and officials amid questions about how his costs had been split between his own constituency campaign and the Lib Dems’ Lothian-wide campaign. Mr Cole-Hamilton was top of the party’s Lothian list as well as the candidate in Edinburgh Western.

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Following the police investigation, prosecutors announced in October last year there would be no action against him. Then in February the Electoral Commission confirmed it was examining his election returns following a complaint. But now the Commission has said it is satisfied there were no breaches of election spending rules.

After learning of the organisation’s conclusions, Mr Cole-Hamilton posted on social media: “Electoral Commission have concluded an investigation into my 2016 election spending and found no ­irregularities with my return. @EDWESTERNSNP complained to them after a 15mth police investigation (also initiated by SNP) determined I had no case to answer.

“All told the SNP have seen me subjected to two taxpayer-funded investigations spanning a total of 27 months. Whilst the cost to the public purse of these is hard to quantify, the waste of police time in particular is inexcusable.

“To suffer an unexpected and heavy defeat is hard, but that’s politics. To then meet that defeat with a vexatious complaint to an overstretched police force, is a wilful disregard of both the democratic process and the public good.

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“I hope the SNP reflect on that as defeat becomes more commonplace to them.

“Finally, if their intention was to distract me from the job I love then they have failed. Every single day of these past 27 months I have continued to work my heart out for the ­people and communities of West Edinburgh I’m so proud to serve.”

Edinburgh Western was a key Lib Dem target in the 2016 election. Mr Cole-Hamilton won with a majority of 2960 over the SNP’s Toni Giugliano, who was selected as candidate by the local party in preference to the sitting MSP Colin Keir, who had himself won the seat from Lib Dem Margaret Smith in the 2011 election.