The National:

THE race to succeed Willie Rennie as leader of the Scottish LibDems is hotting up.

It looks like the nail-biting contest will go the wire, with Alex Cole-Hamilton facing off against … er, Alex Cole-Hamilton.

The Edinburgh Western MSP, who first won his seat in 2016, says he’ll appeal to people who are “tired of having to choose between extremes”. Well, they certainly won’t be tired of choice after the LibDem leadership contest.

He’s also made a steadfast commitment to Unionism, but a totally different kind to the brand offered by Douglas Ross, apparently.

READ MORE: Alex Cole-Hamilton claims Nicola Sturgeon's mandate for indyref2 is 'no good'

But to get a better sense of what Cole-Hamilton would really offer as LibDem leader, we’ve put together a list of some of his Holyrood highlights.

Angering the Electoral Commission

The LibDem MSP landed himself in hot water almost immediately after winning his seat at Holyrood. He faced accusations of breaking election spending rules.

The Edinburgh politician was the subject of a probe by the Electoral Commission in a row over undelivered election leaflets.

In 2018, Cole-Hamilton told the world he was innocent after being cleared by the election watchdog.

In a letter to the LibDems, which Cole-Hamilton shared with press, the Electoral Commission confirmed there had been no breach of the rules over the leaflets.

The National: LibDem Alex Cole-Hamilton won the Edinburgh Western constituency in 2016

The announcement provoked an angry response from the election watchdog, however.

A spokeswoman for the commission pointed out that a wider investigation over costs attributed to Cole-Hamilton’s constituency campaign was still ongoing. “Mr Cole-Hamilton has taken the unusual step of sharing extracts from a letter which the commission sent to the Liberal Democrats,” she said. “Our investigation is ongoing.”

When that investigation concluded in December 2018, the LibDems were fined £500 for filing an inaccurate spending return.

The Electoral Commission found the party had wrongly aggregated 10 items of spending worth almost £1950 in Cole-Hamilton’s constituency.

The watchdog said the party grouped together payments that should have been identified individually “as required by the law”, hampering transparency.

It was the first of many egg-on-face moments for Cole-Hamilton.

Twitter ‘fibs’

In August 2019, the MSP came in for flak after supposedly overhearing comments by SNP youth activists.

The Edinburgh Western MSP was in Shetland, campaigning ahead of the upcoming by-election.

He posted: "Overheard conversation yesterday in Lerwick: @theSNP youth activists out canvassing, resting on a wall and looking at 3 blocks of flats. 'F this, can’t be bothered, let’s just mark them all as SNP and head back the office.' Memo to SNP: don’t rely on your data #Shetland.”

The somewhat suspicious tweet was condemned by SNP staffers. Chris Jones called the post an "awful smear" and pointed out that the activists weren't even in Lerwick on that day.

Earlier that month, Cole-Hamilton was branded a “fib dem” over claims about a trip to the local supermarket.

He tweeted: “"I was in Sainsbury’s this afternoon, unshaven, wearing canvass shorts and a star wars t-shirt, the checkout assistant says: 'I’ve started voting for your party & so’s my son. I’ve been @scottishlabour all my life, but not any more. Not after this week.' #LibDemNow @scotlibdems".

Former Labour MSP Neil Findlay replied: "I am Alex Hole Bimbleton (Fib Dem)- I have just left the house to be mobbed by adoring fans saying 'you are my saviour, where have you been all my life?' In my usual humble, self deprecating way I anointed them with the residue from my latest workout and said 'I shall return!'"

False Covid care home claim

In June 2020, the MSP was forced to apologise for falsely claiming a resident died in a Scottish care home with Covid-19 within a week of being transferred from a nursing home in another part of the country.

The LibDem MSP made the comments as he questioned Scottish Government ministers during a session at Holyrood.

The Courier newspaper ran a story based on his claims, reporting that a resident had been transferred from Home Farm care home on Skye to Isle View nursing home in Aultbea and died there within a week with Covid-19.

However, bosses at Isle View have since clarified that there have been no transfers there from Home Farm and that no resident admitted to Isle View has died with coronavirus.

Cole-Hamilton had to apologise, insisting he “received this information from a reliable constituent in good faith”.

Swearing scandal

Undoubtedly the biggest gaffe of the LibDem leadership hopeful’s relatively short career came during a meeting of Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee in February this year.

He was caught mouthing “f*** you” at a female Scottish Government minister.

Maree Todd, then serving as minister for children and young people, highlighted the incident on social media, prompting Cole-Hamilton to admit that he lost his temper.

However, the outburst was compounded by the LibDem’s “half-baked” initial apology, in which he said he was angry because he was “frustrated” by the SNP government.

The MSP was forced to apologise “unreservedly” in Parliament.

But within a week of swearing in a committee meeting, Cole-Hamilton told SNP ministers that they should “reflect on their tone” during Holyrood debates…

Nicola Sturgeon gif

More recently, Cole-Hamilton became infuriated by the SNP’s response to the Scotland team’s heroic performance at Wembley during Euro 2020.

That party posted a gif of Nicola Sturgeon’s ecstatic response to Jo Swinson losing her seat to Amy Callaghan in the 2019 General Election.

But Cole-Hamilton definitely did not see the funny side.

In a post which was hastily deleted, he wrote: "This is, once again, the footage of the FM cheering the defeat of Jo Swinson, but with a Scotland top photoshopped onto her and a Hamden [sic] park background filter. Is it really that hard to capture spontaneous outbursts of joy from someone who is on camera, literally every day?"

The LibDem was promptly told to “get a grip” by bemused Twitter users.

If these incidents are anything to go by, the Scottish LibDems are in for a bumpy ride if Cole-Hamilton does indeed land the top job.