Nicola Sturgeon challenged to 'lay aside' independence bid for Scottish council campaign

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said curtailing the cost-of-living crisis should be a priority

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Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been challenged to “lay aside” independence talks and to “get to grips with what matters right now” amid upcoming council elections.

The swipe comes from Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, who is fighting for his first election campaign as party leader in the May ballot.

The Edinburgh Western MSP said: “It’s time to move on from the division that has held Scotland back for so long. Let’s lay aside talk of an independence referendum and get to grips with what matters right now."

He continued: “That starts with getting Scotland back on its feet after two years of pandemic and by recognising that our people are facing the biggest hit to household budgets in a generation.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton

Mr Cole-Hamilton's appeal is seemingly in-line with public opinion, where a majority think the looming cost-of-living crisis should be the country's priority.

A poll revealed 52 percent of Scottish adults would like talks on Indyref2 postponed in light of the grim economic outlook, while 38 percent think they should continue.

Amid the Ukraine-Russia crisis, 59 percent want talks to cease and 29 percent believe discussions should continue.

The poll, by Savanta ComRes, surveyed 1,008 Scots aged over 16 between March 10 and 16. It also revealed support for a No vote is at 52% and support for Yes is at 48% – once the “don’t knows” are removed.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

SNP leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford has also hinted at a possible delay to the independence plans.

The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said a referendum should be held in a “timely manner” and said the SNP must be “mindful of where we are” following Russia’s invasion.

He said: “We have got to be respectful of the responsibilities that we have in the short term, but I’m also respectful to the principle that we have a mandate for an independence referendum.

“I want that referendum to take place in a timely manner. I want us to be able to execute the mandate that we have."

Mr Blackford continued: “To those that are expressing a desire for us to get on with our job, of course, we will do so, but we have to be mindful of where we are.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton said in his statement: “For this election, Scottish Liberal Democrats have recruited a formidable slate of candidates whose talents and experience range from defence to agriculture, business to health.

“I have spent much of the last six months encouraging talented, forward-looking people to come forwards, join our party and stand up for their local communities.”

He added: “After everything we’ve been through, Scotland needs new hope right now. At the coming council elections, you’ll only find that hope with the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

“...In this campaign, we will make the case for cutting class sizes, putting new staff in your local surgery and insulating every home in Scotland to protect people from the cost-of-living crisis and the climate emergency.”