ALEX Cole-Hamilton has claimed the Scottish Government does not have a mandate for a second independence referendum because it is "tainted".

Between the SNP and the Greens, a total of 72 pro-Yes politicians were elected to Holyrood in May's election, winning a majority over Unionist parties.

Yet the hot favourite to succeed Willie Rennie as leader of the Scottish LibDems has denied that the democratic majority represents a made for indyref2.

Cole-Hamilton, the only LibDem so far to officially run for the top job, argued the mandate is “no good”.

READ MORE: Alex Cole-Hamilton's five biggest blunders

Speaking to journalists after announcing his candidacy, the Edinburgh MSP said: "For all the questions Scotland faces right now, the answer to none of them is another divisive independence referendum.

"Let's remember also – Nicola Sturgeon talks about a mandate for a second independence referendum.

"That mandate is tainted, it's no good. And I'll tell you why.

"Two weeks out from the election, they could see the polls start to slump.

"We were picking it up on the doorsteps in my constituency and other constituencies around the country.

"People were telling you, 'Look, I think I like independence, but just not now, not with everything going on.'”

Cole-Hamilton, whose party won just four seats in this year's election, continued: "And so suddenly the SNP pivoted, and if you remember there was that quite famous mail-shot that went out which had an empty lectern, an empty podium, with 'Who do we trust to lead Scotland out of the pandemic?'

"So it suddenly became a 'let's not change horses' election, rather than a 'give us a mandate for another push to an independence referendum'.

"So I think any way you slice it, the SNP don't have a mandate. They need to get on with the day job."

The SNP, referencing the LibDem-Tory coalition at Westminster, issued a withering response.

A spokesperson said: "Siding with Boris Johnson in denying democracy will end just as badly for the so-called Liberal Democrats as the last time their leader joined forces with a Tory Prime Minister."

Cole-Hamilton also said his party would “absolutely not” take part in a “wildcat” referendum if Westminster refuses to agree to a second vote on independence.

“They [voters] would not forgive us if we embarked on this vainglorious attempt to rig some kind of result in the same way that they did in the north of Spain," the MSP added.

But SNP MP Gavin Newlands replied: "What arrant nonsense (so completely on-brand so far ). The Catalan Government did not force those who wanted to remain part of Spain to boycott the referendum. He really is a childish fool at times."


The National:

READ MORE: Alex Cole-Hamilton confirms Scottish Liberal Democratic leadership bid

The LibDem MSP launched his leadership bid this morning at the Boardwalk Beach Club cafe in Edinburgh.

He said Scotland was "gripped" by the nationalisms of the SNP and "Boris Johnson's Brexiteers".

Cole-Hamilton insisted he does not “fear power" and opened the door to a potential coalition with Scottish Labour.

"It's not rocket science to say that in a devolved administration with a proportional representation election system, that it is geared around coalitions, and I don't fear that,” he told journalists.

"I like working with people. I work right across the chamber to great effect, with the Conservatives, with Labour, with the SNP on an issue-by-issue basis."

The Edinburgh politician added: "I will try to find consensus with those people who share my values on a broad range of things.

"And it's inevitable that if we are to see a change in government from the SNP, who have stagnated for 14 years in power, then we need to seek out a progressive alternative.

"And that might be coalition with Labour, but I'm not saying that that's a given.

"There is still a great distance between me and the Labour Party on many, many things."

The LibDem leadership hopeful explained that he has a "great personal friendship" with Labour leader Anas Sarwar, adding that the pair regularly meet up for coffee.

But he was less kind about Tory leader Douglas Ross, who he said "has shown that he is part of the problem" in terms of "toxic British nationalism".

Cole-Hamilton added: "I'm not sure there's ever going to be common ground enough for that sort of formal coalition to ever happen [with the Tories]."