Who is Alex Cole-Hamilton? The man set to take over from Willie Rennie in Scotland

SNP ‘prioritising independence’ says Willie Rennie

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Alex Cole-Hamilton has today launched his campaign to take over from Willie Rennie, the current leader of the Scottish Lib Dems. The Scottish Lib Dems are the smallest party in the Scottish Parliament, but this well-liked MSP could prove problematic to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the future.

His party may have the smallest number of seats in Holyrood but Mr Cole-Hamilton could make waves in Scottish Government.

He is popular in his constituency, Edinburgh Western, which is reflected in his huge majority of just under 10,000.

Mr Cole-Hamilton is a strong critic of Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP party.

Although he isn’t overly well-known nationally and at Westminster, his bid to become the next leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats could mean that we hear a lot more from him.

Mr Cole-Hamilton is the favourite to take over from Mr Rennie who has resigned earlier this month.

Mr Rennie decided to resign his leadership despite leading the Scottish Lib Dems for a decade.

He said now is the right time for someone else to take over after his party lost ground in the Holyrood elections in May.

In a statement, he said: “After 11 elections and referendums over 10 years, and a global pandemic, I have decided to stand aside as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats”.

Who is his likely successor?

Mr Cole-Hamilton, 44, was born in England but moved to Scotland when he was a child with his family.

He has been educated in Scotland attending Madras College, a state school in St Andrews, before graduating with a degree in politics and international relations from Aberdeen University.

He stood for the Scottish Lib Dems in several elections but was only elected in 2016 for his current constituency, Edinburgh Western.

The battle for his seat was closely fought between the Lib Dems and the SNP. Both sides accused the other of underhand tactics.

After his election, Mr Cole-Hamilton was investigated by the electoral watchdog, a two-year investigation cleared him of SNP’s accusations that the Lib Dems had overspent on their campaign for the seat.

During his political career, Mr Cole-Hamilton has been a fierce critic of the SNP.

Mr Cole-Hamilton was the Lib Dem representative of the committee set-up to investigate whether Ms Sturgeon had breached the ministerial code over Holyrood’s handling of complaints against Alex Salmond.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said he was the “new hope” candidate on his bid to become the next leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, promising to offer an “alternative kind of thinking”.

In his campaign, he hopes to appeal to Scots “tired of having to choose between extremes” as Scottish politics has been dominated by the referendum campaign in recent years.

He added: “I want to drive that alternative, so I’m putting my name forward as a candidate to be the next leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.”

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