Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today written to party members to set out the approach he will be taking in response to the First Minister’s renewed push to break up the UK.
In the letter he describes the prospect of another referendum as “a colossal waste of focus and energy” and argues that the Scottish Parliament should be focused on tackling long waits for operations and cancer treatment.
He also confirmed that Scot Lib Dem MSPs would oppose a second independence referendum at every stage, citing the cast iron mandate with which they were each elected to parliament.
Mr Cole-Hamilton’s letter is as follows:
“It’s been quite a week. We now know the preferred pathway for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP in their efforts to break up the UK. It boils down to whether the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom believes that the Scottish Parliament has the power to hold a non-binding consultative referendum. If, as many suspect, the Court says it doesn’t, then the SNP have said they will turn the next General Election into a single issue ‘de facto’ referendum.
“We are a membership led party, so this week I chaired an online consultation session open to all members to hear views from across the party. It was the most engaged and well attended online meeting outside of conference that we have ever held.
“I was gratified that those present overwhelmingly agreed with the view I had laid out in Parliament earlier that day, that a referendum next year would be both a colossal waste of focus and energy. When people are struggling to feed their families, when they are waiting in record queues for operations and cancer care and when Covid rates are on the rise, the focus of our Parliament should not be dragged to the constitution.
“I and my colleagues were elected to the Scottish Parliament with a cast iron mandate to oppose a second independence referendum at every stage, and we will take pride in continuing to honour that. It is my firm expectation and my hope that the Supreme Court will reject the legality of a non-binding referendum and allow us to focus on the issues that matter to the people of this country. Mounting a strong liberal case for Scotland’s place in a reformed and federal United Kingdom holds no fear for me.
“Brexit has shown us the problems that we create for ourselves when we start to break up a successful economic, social and political union. The problems of taking Scotland out of the United Kingdom would be even more catastrophic.
"As we all face a cost of living crisis the pooling and sharing of risks and opportunities that come from working with people in other parts of the UK are more important than ever. Liberal politics will never be the politics of selfishness and division.
“You can be certain that I will continue to consult all members at every stage as this situation develops. In the meantime, I want to thank you for all you have done and continue to do to advance the cause of Liberal Democracy at a time when our country needs it like never before.
“Best wishes, Alex.”