The complaint against Alex Cole-Hamilton
The leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Alex Cole-Hamilton, could be subject to a probe by the Scottish Parliament over his election expenses. The National reported that a complaint was lodged against Cole-Hamilton by a member of the public, alleging that he had breached the rules on spending limits and reporting during the 2021 Scottish Parliament election campaign.
The complaint claims that Cole-Hamilton failed to declare some of his campaign costs, such as leaflets, posters, and social media advertising, and that he exceeded the spending limit of £16,087 for his constituency of Edinburgh Western. The complaint also accuses Cole-Hamilton of using his parliamentary office and staff for campaign purposes, which is prohibited by the Code of Conduct for MSPs.
The response from the Scottish Parliament and the LibDems
The Scottish Parliament confirmed that it had received the complaint, but refused to comment on whether it would launch an investigation or not. A spokesperson said: “The Scottish Parliament does not comment on individual complaints or confirm whether a complaint has been received. Any complaint received is dealt with in accordance with the procedures set out in Section 9 of the Code of Conduct for Members of the Scottish Parliament.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrats dismissed the complaint as “politically motivated” and said that they were confident that Cole-Hamilton had complied with the rules. A party spokesperson said: “This is a politically motivated complaint from an SNP supporter. Alex Cole-Hamilton’s election expenses were in line with the legal requirements and guidance. We have full confidence that this will be shown to be the case.”
The implications for the LibDem leader
Alex Cole-Hamilton became the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats in August 2021, after winning the party’s leadership contest unopposed. He succeeded Willie Rennie, who stepped down after 10 years in the role. Cole-Hamilton is seen as a charismatic and outspoken figure, who has been vocal in his opposition to Scottish independence and Brexit.
However, he has also faced some controversies in his political career. In February 2021, he was forced to apologise after he was seen swearing at Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd during an online committee hearing. He wrote Todd a letter of apology, as well as publicly apologising in the Holyrood Chamber the week after.
If the complaint against him is found to be valid, he could face sanctions from the Scottish Parliament, such as a reprimand, a suspension, or a fine. He could also face legal action from the Electoral Commission, which is responsible for enforcing the rules on election spending and reporting. The Electoral Commission said that it was aware of the complaint, but did not confirm whether it was investigating it or not.