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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton is eyeing victory in the north: ‘We're on the verge of winning back the Highlands’


By Scott Maclennan

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The Scottish Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton (centre) was campaigning in the Highlands for the Jamie Stone (left) and Angus Macdonald (right). They are party's candidates in the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross and Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire seats.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton (centre) was campaigning in the Highlands for the Jamie Stone (left) and Angus Macdonald (right). They are party's candidates in the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross and Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire seats.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has been campaigning in the north saying that his party is “on the verge of taking back the Highlands” with two competitive seats in the region.

In the final days before Thursday’s general election, Mr Cole-Hamilton has been knocking doors with Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) and Angus MacDonald (Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire).

Confidence is high that the two candidates can secure victory, with Mr Cole– Hamilton announcing his party would put £1 billion a year more into roads and hospitals across the region.

“I'm here because I think we're on the verge of taking back the Highlands for the Lib Dems,” he said. “Obviously, we have to win Jamie’s seat all over again because the boundary changes were unkind.

“But his name recognition, his work rate, will I think comfortably see him over the line, it will be close but we're getting lots of tactical support as well from Labour and Tory voters who recognise that Jamie is the only person who can see off the SNP in the far north.

“But don't write off a surprise in Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire because I've been all over that constituency with Angus over the last two years, people rediscovering their Lib Dem traditions”.

From left: Jamie Stone, Alex Cole-Hamilton and Angus Macdonald. The Liberal Democrat leader was campaigning in the Highlands for the party's Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross and Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire candidates.
From left: Jamie Stone, Alex Cole-Hamilton and Angus Macdonald. The Liberal Democrat leader was campaigning in the Highlands for the party's Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross and Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire candidates.

On top of that is the legacy of the late Charles Kennedy – the long-time MP from Lochaber – who Mr Cole-Hamilton says is warmly remembered and plays a part in “people rediscovering their Lib Dem traditions.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “They miss that quality representation and the number of times people have mentioned Charles Kennedy on the doors – to me, it's been just lovely because Charles was my mentor in politics.”

“And so, I think we're on the verge of winning back the Highlands. One of my secret wishes for the days after the election is to look at the map of Scotland and to see the whole of the Highlands going Lib Dem gold again and I think we're on the verge of that.”

Central to the Lib Dem’s push in the north is investment in what it sees as priorities for locals like the A9 dualling because “this isn't just about the importance for the economy of the Highlands it's also about the road safety of the people”.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “The SNP have fought four previous elections promising to dual the A9 and the A96 and it was originally to be finished by 2025 and then there was a round of applause from the back benches of the SNP when they set the rather unambitious target of dualling it by 2035.

“This needs to be a massive infrastructure priority for the Scottish government. It isn't clearly. We're quite happy to put party politics to one side and work with the SNP on this, we've sat down with Fergus Ewing on this.

“And it is a huge priority for us because it's not just about making faster links to the north and the powerhouse that Inverness represents but it is a road safety issue.

“We are seeing a fatality almost every week so this isn't just about the importance for the economy of the Highlands it's also about the road safety of the people who not just live but visit here so it's a priority for us.”


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