ELECTION pressure is now piling on Alex Cole-Hamilton after he swore at a woman government minister giving evidence to a Holyrood committee meeting.

Cole-Hamilton, who represents Edinburgh West, faces a challenge by the SNP's Sarah Masson at the May election with polls suggesting she has a strong chance of winning the marginal seat.

Angus Robertson, the SNP's former deputy leader, who is standing as the party's candidate in the Tory-held seat of Edinburgh Central, last night urged voters in the area to elect someone who has not verbally abused a woman.

READ MORE: LibDem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton told to apologise in full for 'vile' outburst

Responding to Robertson this morning the Scottish Government's energy minister Paul Wheelhouse wrote: "Is he not Deputy Convener on the Equalities and Human Rights Committee?

The National:

Sarah Masson is challenging Cole-Hamilton for the SNP in Edinburgh Western at the Holyrood election in May. She hopes to retake the LibDem-held seat for the SNP.

"It would be appalling behaviour to do what he did to *any* witness at committee, regardless of who it is. Fact that it was said to a woman makes it worse, yes, but let’s not lose sight of it being inappropriate, full stop."

READ MORE: Alex Cole-Hamilton's ‘sorry you made me do it’ is no apology

Cole-Hamilton won the Edinburgh Western constituency in 2016 with a majority of 2960 but the SNP won it in 2011 - and are fighting to regain it this spring. 

The LibDem MSP was caught on camera mouthing an expletive at Maree Todd, minister for children and young people, during an online oral hearing of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee - of which he is the deputy convener - last week. 

He initially appeared to try to ignore using offensive language towards Todd, but later tweeted to admit that he “lost his temper” - but blamed his behaviour on Todd in a move which provoked further anger.

READ MORE: Alex Cole-Hamilton's ‘sorry you made me do it’ is no apology

Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP Rona Mackay last night branded Cole-Hamilton’s apology as “half-baked”, saying his flippant tone undermines cross-party efforts to encourage more women into politics and must be condemned by LibDem leader Willie Rennie.

"Politicians of all parties have a moral obligation to lead by example and must be held to the highest standards. Alex Cole-Hamilton must now offer an unequivocal apology for his disgraceful outburst rather than blaming the woman on the receiving end of his bile,” said Mackay.

"Political leaders have a responsibility to call out this kind of contemptible behaviour too, even if it happens within their own party. It’s time for Willie Rennie to take responsibility and ensure this kind of behaviour is not allowed to go on unchecked.”

She added: “Mr Cole-Hamilton should reflect on what message vile behaviour like this sends to women considering a career in politics. Female politicians are already subject to enough appalling intimidation without being the target of venomous, foul-mouthed abuse from male colleagues during important parliamentary business.

“My message to Mr Cole-Hamilton is clear – stop hiding behind a half-baked apology and set the record straight now.”

Cole-Hamilton can be seen in a clip appearing to mouth “f*** you”.

He said sorry after Todd responded to a tweet about The National’s article on the issue, saying: “Those who spotted this at the time at committee thought it was directed at me. Having seen the footage I’m inclined to agree.

"The swearing is appalling but the face contorted with anger also requires some explanation. Be grateful to hear it @agcolehamilton @scotlibdems”

Cole-Hamilton responded: “Hands up, I lost my temper here. I was frustrated by your government backsliding on children’s rights once again (as long-grassing UNCRC incorporation would have been).

“Nevertheless I muttered something under my breath that I shouldn’t have and I apologise.”

Members of the committee were meeting to consider the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill at stage 2. The legislation will incorporate the UNCRC into Scottish law, legally protecting children’s rights.

During the meeting MSPs discussed what would be an appropriate time between royal assent and commencement of the bill.

Cole-Hamilton pushed for a shorter commencement period of six months, while SNP members backed a commencement period of one year.

The LibDem MSP said children have waited long enough for this legislation. He told the committee: “The minister [Maree Todd] states that we need to give authorities, public authorities, time to get their systems in place and to get a line of sight on what this means for them, but they’ve had that time, they’ve had that time and then some.

“Because public authorities have seen the direction of travel on children’s rights and they’ve been required to act compatibly with the UNCRC since 2011.”

A spokesperson for the LibDems said they had nothing further to add.