Alex Cole-Hamilton appears to swear in committee meeting

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Alex Cole-Hamilton also said it was “hard to see” the Scottish First Minister leading the SNP at the next Holyrood election in 2026. The Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader made clear the support for the SNP would “crumble” if she resigned.

Speaking as the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference got under way on Friday, he added: “It is hard to see how she leads the SNP into the next election.

“I say that because she has an internecine civil war within her party which might be dormant just now but I think is about to flare up again on a number of issues.

“She has a fundamentalist and a gradualist wing of her party that will come to blows then they realise there isn’t going to be an independence referendum in 2023.

“Then there will be pressure for her maybe to go for a wildcat referendum and all these things.”

Ms Sturgeon has been First Minister since 2014, and if she is still in charge of the country by the next election she will have had a longer-term in office than Margaret Thatcher.

Mr Cole-Hamilton claimed Ms Sturgeon had “this solemn managerialism about her which I think people quite like”.

However, the MSP made clear: “But there is nobody else like that in her party and I think that edifice of power and support will crumble when she goes.”

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader also referred to Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross who recently bet the First Minister £50 that she will not be in charge of the SNP for the 2026 Holyrood election.

Mr Cole-Hamilton claimed if that happened, “the game changes entirely”.

The Edinburgh Western MSP also said he is “not going to be placing any bets like Douglas Ross did with her”.

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But he added: “She has looked knackered for a long time, she has looked exhausted.

“I can understand that – she has put in a lot of hours of work in terms of the pandemic, I wouldn’t take that away from her.

“You’ve got to think that part of her wouldn’t much rather have a nice academic job in America or something, rather than lead that viper’s nest of a party that she does.”

He added: “I think there are many staging posts on the road where things can change here, and I think my party needs to be ready for success.

“We’re finding on the doorstep a warmth and a readiness to believe in us again, to look to us again, and I am ready to capitalise on that.”

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Mr Cole-Hamilton will use his speech to the Scottish Liberal Democrat autumn conference to vow that he will keep “pushing for an independent inquiry into all unnecessary deaths connected to the ambulance waiting times crisis, with the findings published”.

Last month, the SNP-led Scottish Government was forced to draft in soldiers and firefighters to drive ambulance service vehicles in a bid to reduce long waits for help.

Mr Cole-Hamilton will demand in the speech: “The Government must start weekly reporting of ambulance waiting times.

“They are a symptom of an overrun and understaffed healthcare service, ignored for too long by a government with other priorities.”

While he will stress that “none of this is the fault of the heroic paramedics, technicians or call handlers”, he will tell the conference – his first since becoming leader – of a former nurse who faced two lengthy waits for an ambulance.

Mr Cole-Hamilton will speak out about the case of Catherine Whyte, who in August was “forced to wait 15 hours for an ambulance after suffering a fall”.

After another fall last month she was forced to wait eight hours for an ambulance, he will say, while “suffering from fractured feet, a fractured pelvis and delirium”.

In response, an SNP spokesman said: “It’s Mr Cole-Hamilton’s party which is knackered after their toxic coalition with the Tories.

“He is just the latest party leader to admit they can’t compete with Nicola Sturgeon – long may it continue.”

 

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