Responding to the publication of the Sue Gray report, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said:
"This report lays out in black and white the culture of rule-breaking and lawbreaking presided over by the Prime Minister. He made the laws, broke them and then lied about it to the British public.
"This is also a defining moment for Douglas Ross in his leadership of the Scottish Conservatives. I have spoken to members of his party and Conservative voters who are shocked that he is still standing by a Prime Minister who is only out for himself. He needs to grow a backbone and submit his letter of no confidence.
"Every household in Britain faces eye-watering costs at the petrol pumps, sky-rocketing food prices and massive energy bills. It needs new hope and new leadership."
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today highlighted a new report from the Accounts Commission which warns that the Scottish Government’s proposed reform of social care risks mirroring other public sector reforms which have not delivered the promised benefits and risks diverting resources from tackling the immediate challenges in the social care sector.
Responding Mr Cole-Hamilton warned that a ministerial takeover would mean ditching valuable local expertise and putting ministers in charge of services rather than local health teams.
The report Local government in Scotland Overview 2022 says:
“Scottish Government proposals for a new National Care Service are still at an early stage but will have a substantial impact on local authorities’ responsibilities. Such a significant programme of reform brings challenges and risks. Reform in other areas of the public sector has shown that expected benefits are not always clearly defined, and even when they are, they are not always delivered. Focusing on such a major transformation will also risk a diversion from tackling the immediate challenges within the social care sector. For local government there is uncertainty about the destination of the policy, and concern over a loss to local empowerment and funding for councils.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“The SNP promised that centralising control of Scotland’s police would save money. These savings have never happened. This report warns against repeating the same mistakes again with care services.
“Focusing on a top down reorganisation of social care with distant ministers in charge instead of local health teams will simply divert resources from where they are needed.
“It would terrible for care services if authority was to be taken away from local councils and permanently handed to the same Scottish Government ministers who were responsible for sending untested and Covid-positive patients into care homes at the start of the pandemic.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats believe the focus should be on driving up pay and conditions for staff to make it an appealing career and making sure that people can get care at home or close to home.”
Commenting on the publication of a series of photographs of a party in Downing Street in which the Prime Minister can be seen raising a toast, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said:
"These photographs obliterate the Prime Minister's claims that he did not know of any rulebreaking during lockdown and that the rules were followed at all times. While the public made huge sacrifices, he partied in Number 10.
"The public are not stupid. They understood perfectly well that the Prime Minister was lying to them. The only people who fell for it were Conservative parliamentarians.
"This is a key moment for Douglas Ross. He should condemn the lawbreaking and lies of a Prime Minister who is only out for himself and finally resubmit his letter of no confidence. If he doesn't do that then he will be proving to the public that he will always put the interests of the Conservative party ahead of the interests of the country. Every day Boris Johnson remains in office will do more damage to public trust and to our democracy."
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton today challenged the First Minister to visit stations and travel on trains across Scotland to hear first hand from passengers about the impact of the withdrawal of almost 700 daily services indefinitely - just 47 days after ScotRail was nationalised by the SNP/Green Government.
On a visit to Glasgow Queen Street on 1 April, Nicola Sturgeon declared that the Scottish Government taking control of ScotRail was “historic”, “momentous” and would see trains run for the benefit of passengers. Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth called it “a day of celebration”.
A third of the timetable has now been removed.
Alex Cole-Hamilton commented:
“The promise to passengers of a stronger greener rail network is in tatters just 47 days after the SNP/Green Government took it over.
“For all their talk about the climate emergency and the importance of public transport, they have just made it much harder to leave the car at home. Green voters especially will be dismayed by this betrayal.
“The government announced that they would take over ScotRail two years ago but neglected to come up with a better plan than abolishing a third of the timetable. It beggars belief.
“Nicola Sturgeon jetted off to America to spend days talking about independence and to tastelessly claim the war in Ukraine strengthens the case for separation. I think people would rather she spent days travelling with passengers across Scotland hearing how these SNP/Green rail cuts will impact on their families, work and travel plans.
“Running the railways means taking responsibility for the hard decisions and doing the hard graft of planning. The First Minister can’t turn up for the photo opportunities but be nowhere to be seen when passengers are packed onto trains like sardines or worse still not have any train at all.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today demanded to know why Scottish Water bosses are receiving bonuses of up to £92,000 each at the same time as the government-owned company released raw sewage into Scotland’s rivers over 10,000 times.
It comes after Alex Cole-Hamilton this week challenged the First Minister on why the routine dumping of untreated human waste into our rivers was described as “vital” by the SNP/Green Coalition.
The bonus bill for just three Scottish Water executives totalled £227,000 in 2021. The Chief Executive received a £92,000 bonus on top of a £267,000 salary.
In the same year, sewage was released into Scotland’s rivers at least 30 times a day with the true figure likely to be much higher because monitoring is rare.
Alex Cole-Hamilton commented:
“The release of untreated human waste into our rivers shouldn’t be allowed to happen. We’re talking about excrement, wet wipes and sanitary towels being pumped into the heart of our communities.
“People will want to know why top execs are being rewarded with enormous bonuses of up to £92,000 when raw sewage is being dumped at least 30 times a day. We need the Government to take action to prevent this from happening but neither Scottish Water or the Scottish Government show any sign of changing their ways.
“Instead of ministers describing discharges as “vital”, it is time the SNP/Green Coalition sent the message that nobody should get away with systematically pumping raw sewage into our rivers – let alone a government-owned company.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today challenged the First Minister over the SNP's sewage scandal which saw raw sewage released into Scotland's rivers more than 10,000 times last year alone.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“Raw sewage is released into our rivers every day. It is routinely dumped by Scotland’s government-owned water company.
“Thanks to investigations by The Ferret, we now know that this happened more than 10,000 times last year - that’s 30 times a day.
“Scottish Water is only required to monitor 3% of sewage release points, so the true figure will be much worse. Scotland is way behind England on this.
“This is an SNP/Green Coalition that claims to champion the environment, but the Environment Minister herself described the routine dumping of untreated human waste into our rivers as “vital”.
“This shouldn’t be allowed to happen. We’re talking about excrement, wet wipes and sanitary towels. In West Edinburgh right now there are otters, fish, children and dogs playing in the River Almond where sewage has been dumped hundreds of times.
“So can I ask the First Minister, why aren’t there targets to end the release of sewage into our rivers, and how long is this going to be allowed to continue?”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today called for the whole Scottish Parliament to oppose the Scottish Government’s Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) Bill "power grab" on Wednesday afternoon.
Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently campaigned against Scottish Government plans to permanently take control of emergency powers granted during the Covid-19 pandemic which cover everything from closing schools to the early release of prisoners.
The Scottish Government’s proposed bill comes despite the First Minister declaring on 24th March 2020 that: “I am very clear that the emergency powers are necessary and they should exist only for as long as they are needed.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:
"When the pandemic hit, we all took a deep breath and granted deep and wide-ranging powers to the government to get us through. However, even the First Minister was clear that these powers were never meant to be forever.
“If there is a future crisis, the Scottish Parliament has demonstrated that it is capable of working at speed to provide the necessary tools for tackling it.
“This should not be taken as an opportunity for a colossal SNP power grab, lining their pockets with powers that they nobody would have countenanced handing over pre-pandemic.
"SNP ministers have a track record of taking decisions at the last minute with little regard for public accountability. Parliament should not be handing the keys to ministers to make decisions affecting everything from school closure to the mass release of prisoners behind closed doors.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats will be voting against this SNP power grab.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today branded the SNP a disaster for local health care as new figures revealed significant falls in how people rate the quality of care they have received.
The Health and Care Experience Survey 2021/22 published today revealed that:
- 67% rated the care provided by their GP practice positively, down from 90% in 2009/10
- The percentage of people rating their care services as either excellent or good has fallen from 83% to 62% since 2013/14.
- Just 44% reported positive experiences arranging to see a mental health professional.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“15 years of SNP misrule has been a disaster for local health care. Staff on the frontline were sounding the alarm for years but ministers chose to put their fingers in their ears.
“For those who can get an appointment, standards of care across our NHS remain high thanks to the hard work of staff but even getting to see a GP or a mental health worker can feel like a lottery.
“Over the coming months Scottish Liberal Democrats will push for a rapid recruitment programme to put new staff into local services, including new mental health staff in every surgery and through a far better deal for social care staff.
“Patients and staff deserve better than more years of SNP failure.”
Just a day after the local election results were announced, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has joined victorious candidate Jack Caldwell and activists to meet constituents in the Leith Walk ward.
Figures released by Edinburgh council today revealed that the party came second on first preference votes across the city with 20.5%, just 5.4% behind the SNP.
Speaking after the campaign session, Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“Scottish Liberal Democrats are committed local representatives who stay in touch all year round, not just when there is an election on.
“However, there are always future electoral tests coming down the track and I want the party to be fighting fit to build on the momentum that these big gains at the local elections have given us.
“That means speaking to as many voters as possible and showing them the value of a Liberal Democrat representative at every level.
“We have shown that we can take seats from the Conservatives and speak for voters who feel let down by Douglas Ross and Boris Johnson.
“Now it is time to oust the SNP who have been running Scotland down for far too long. I want to show people that whether they consider themselves nationalist, unionist or somewhere in between that Scottish Liberal Democrats have the people and the policies to build a better Scotland.
“A Liberal Democrat revival has begun.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today delivered his final message to the people of Scotland before polls open on Thursday 5th May, highlighting a new poll showing falling support for the SNP and Conservatives and urging voters to instead choose local champions who will stand up for communities across Scotland.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“The final poll of the campaign shows the Conservatives and the SNP falling back. At every level of government they have let Scotland down and taken people for granted.
“It’s time to move on from the division that has held Scotland back for so long. Let’s lay aside talk of an independence referendum and get to grips with what matters right now.
“That starts with getting Scotland back on its feet after two years of pandemic and by recognising that our people are facing the biggest hit to household budgets in a generation.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats are seeing new shoots of growth and renewal.
“My party has used this campaign to talk about solutions for the cost-of-living crisis: insulating homes, a VAT cut worth £600, a Robin Hood Tax on the energy companies making super profits and the reversal of SNP/Green rail and tax hikes.
“We want to solve the problems you face day-in-day-out. Putting every qualified teacher to work to cut class sizes and putting new staff in GP surgeries to cut waits.
“Every Scottish Liberal Democrat elected will be a local champion who you will see all year round - not just at election time. That new hope is what you get when you vote for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.”
Campaigning in Rutherglen, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today set out the choice in front of voters in Thursday’s council election.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said that voters could choose between Liberal Democrat candidates who would offer new hope to Scotland by focusing on key priorities such as insulating every home in Scotland, getting new staff into GP surgeries and reforming business rates to reinvigorate high streets, or SNP candidates who obsess over independence and support a national government that cuts council budgets.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“There is a choice in front of voters.
“If you vote for the SNP you will get representatives that will make excuses for cuts to local services and care more about independence than they do tackling the cost of living crisis.
“If you vote for the Conservatives you will get someone who was happy to stand under the banner of a Prime Minister who was partying while women gave birth alone and people said goodbye to their loved ones by video call.
“But if you vote for Scottish Liberal Democrats you will get a local champion; someone who will sweat the small stuff like potholes and bin collections while fighting for you on the big stuff. Our party wants to insulate every home in Scotland to bring down bills and tackle the climate emergency, get new staff into GP surgeries and reform business rates to reinvigorate high streets.
“From travelling around Scotland I know that more and more people who have voted Conservative or SNP in the past are curious about what a hardworking Liberal Democrat can do for them. I would urge them to give us a try.”
Responding to documents leaked to Politico indicating that the US Supreme Court is set to overturn Roe v. Wade and the continued failure of the Scottish Government to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics in Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said:
"The reports from America are truly scary. If this goes through, women will die if pregnancy threatens their life. Abortion is not a decision that is taken lightly. My thoughts go out to all of those scared about the future, because of the decision that they fear is coming down the tracks. The Court's draft ruling shows how easily our basic human rights can be dismantled.
"We must make sure that we protect the rights of women to access safe and legal abortion in the UK without harassment. For years campaigners including myself have been calling for buffer zones around abortion clinics to ensure that people in a time of need are not faced with intimidation and shame at a time when they deserve support and empathy.
"No one thinks that Nicola Sturgeon and Maree Todd have anything in common with the US Republican party and its legal assault on personal freedoms, but the fact is that they have stalled and dissembled over these buffer zones for far too long.
"It is the responsibility of a modern and liberal society to uphold their citizen’s rights to medical access and medical privacy."
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today called for Scotland’s local authorities to play their part in tackling the climate emergency and called for a tree to be planted for every citizen in Scotland.
The party’s local election manifesto commits to:
- Establish local Climate Change Committees and Just Transition plans.
- Cut energy use across local authority buildings.
- Plant more trees and community orchards through a “tree for every citizen” initiatives focused on native species.
- Protect greenbelts and gaps between settlements for the long-term benefit of local communities, the climate and nature, including through a brownfield-first approach to planning.
- Preserve parks and playing fields as important community green space.
- campaign for the creation of a new restitution order, the proceeds of which would help victims with the costs of clearing up fly-tipping and increase efforts to catch tippers.
- Support substantial measures to reduce waste and embrace the development of a circular economy.
Alex Cole-Hamilton said:
“Scotland’s climate targets are among the strongest in the world because of the work done by Scottish Liberal Democrats to lift ambitions.
“Sadly these targets have been missed for years because SNP ministers refuse to get serious about the climate emergency. It’s unconscionable that they are still backing a third runway at Heathrow.
“Meanwhile Green party have abandoned their manifesto promise to reduce rail fares and received a ticking off from Greenpeace over their defence of the Scottish Government’s policies on oil and gas.
“I want to see action at every level of government to move Scotland towards net zero. Planting a tree for every single Scot would be a powerful symbol of that ambition.
“Every Scottish Liberal Democrat councillor elected on 5th May will be a champion for greener and cleaner communities.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today used a visit to the Highlands to say that Scottish Liberal Democrats will promote Scottish tourism and ensure that it works for the communities who call the place home.
The party’s local election manifesto calls for adopting new tourism strategies to take advantage of more people choosing holidays in Scotland and give businesses the best chance of capitalising.
It also calls for a substantial programme of capital works in tourist areas to provide better car parking, electric charging points, public toilets and waste disposal points.
Alex Cole-Hamilton said:
“We are so lucky to live in a beautiful country with a fascinating history.
“Lifestyles, services, travel patterns and choices have changed, sometimes permanently, whilst many local businesses have adapted to new opportunities.
“There are major opportunities to keep “leisure pounds” local and to back good local businesses which provide sustainable local jobs
“The Scottish Government have barely tapped the surface of the potential of our world class food and drinks industries for example.
“However, amid all of these opportunities, it is important to ensure that the communities who live in these locations all year round are not forgotten about.
“That means making sure cities like Edinburgh have appropriate licensing regimes in place and providing new amenities in areas like the Highlands so that they are not overrun by tourists.
“Every Scottish Liberal Democrat councillor elected on 5th May will offer new hope to Scotland’s tourist businesses and the communities that they sit among.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton today said the SNP have “systematically stripped expertise out of nurseries” after new analysis revealed that the number of teachers working in state-funded early learning and childcare has dropped 24% since the last round of council elections.
Across Scotland, there are now 219 fewer teachers in nurseries than when voters went to the polls in 2017. The fall comes despite Nicola Sturgeon promising that education would be her government’s number one priority.
The figures include a drop of 82 teachers in SNP-run Edinburgh, which took the decision in 2020 to remove all teachers from its nurseries.
The number of teachers has now more than halved in the last decade.
Alex Cole-Hamilton commented:
“Through sheer persistence the Scottish Liberal Democrats persuaded the SNP of the value of expanding free early learning and childcare. Every part of the sector should be thriving.
“However, these figures show that expertise has been systematically stripped from nurseries. Those with the best qualifications have their posts abolished because they are too expensive to keep.
“Nicola Sturgeon refused to even pick up the phone to her SNP councillors in Edinburgh when they voted to get rid of every single nursery teacher.
“Children have missed out on so much. The poverty-related attainment gap has got even bigger. But parents and teachers are struggling to see any difference in what’s on offer. That says it all about the SNP’s priorities.
“Instead of being taken for granted you can vote for Scottish Liberal Democrats on 5 May and get a local champion determined to give new hope to young people.”