SCOTTISH LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton is facing calls to step down after it emerged he did not receive special dispensation to hold a public meeting which reportedly attracted 1000 people and broke Covid regulations.

The Scottish Government has dismissed the LibDem leader's claims that a meeting held in Edinburgh’s Gyle Park in August 2020 was given the go-ahead by then justice secretary Humza Yousaf.

A spokesperson said this was “simply inaccurate” and that “no dispensation whatsoever” had been granted.

Following an Edinburgh Reporter investigation into the event, Cole-Hamilton (below) is facing a number of calls to resign.

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The publication reports that the meeting was arranged to debate plans to introduce a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in East Craigs and earlier Cole-Hamilton said he had been advised by national clinical director Jason Leitch that it would be categorised as an event with a maximum of 200 people permitted.

Covid restrictions in force at the time of the Gyle Park meeting permitted “certain outdoor live events (involving open space or organised seating) with physical distancing and restricted numbers – subject to guidance”.

Cole-Hamilton has denied any wrongdoing and a Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “Mr Cole-Hamilton sought approval from both the justice secretary and the police for a socially distanced event to take place on a matter of importance to his constituency.

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“Many residents attended along with Conservative and SNP politicians. The police attended and raised no concerns.”

Among those calling for an explanation from the Scottish LibDem leader is the SNP’s Tommy Sheppard (below).

“There’s a prima facie case that he broke the regulations quite blatantly and publicly, which is not a good look for an elected politician, particularly not one who is so keen at hurling accusations about misdemeanours and impropriety at other people.

“I think we are due an explanation from Mr Cole-Hamilton and I think he’s got a question to answer. My advice to him would be that he ought to exercise a little humility and contrition.”

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SNP Councillor Lesley Macinnes attended the meeting as the council's then transport convener and said that she had various discussions with Cole-Hamilton prior to the event.

“At no point did he mention any discussions with the then justice secretary, as he has now claimed”, she said.

“When I arrived to speak at the meeting I was shocked by the number of people in attendance. It broke that clear (200 people) limit and no attempts seemed to be made to limit the crowd size by the organisers.

“Mr Cole-Hamilton and his fellow speakers helped create an unnecessarily hostile atmosphere at that meeting which meant the pros and cons of the proposals could not even be effectively shared.

“I was disappointed and frustrated then by his approach to this. This latest revelation is equally disappointing and it raises concerns about how much trust can be placed, by any of us, on what has been said.”

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Chief Superintendent Sean Scott confirmed that Police Scotland had been made aware of the event and that although no police presence was required, local officers patrolled the area as part of their routine duties.

He said: “The officers observed the gathering was attended by a larger number than was permitted under legislation for live outdoor events and fed this information back to senior officers.

“The matter was then raised with council officials in relation to Covid-19 legislation.”

A spokesperson for the City of Edinburgh Council said: “The council was not officially notified of the event and there was no official permission in place.

“If Mr Cole-Hamilton had notified the council, officers could have advised him about the restrictions in place.”

MSP Michelle Thomson has said that the Scottish LibDem leader should be “considering his position” while Greens councillor Susan Rae said he should “reflect on his continued duplicitous behaviour reflects on his colleagues”.

Inverleith councillor Vicky Nicolson was employed by the Health and Social Care Partnership and was seconded to support short-staffed home care teams.

She said: “This was a difficult time for staff, individuals needing care and their families, and our courageous front-line workforce were abiding by the rules whilst caring for people, many of whom were being discharged from hospital.

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“Any event which was unlawful makes a mockery of the work of the Health and Social Care workforce and the sacrifices made by families.

“There are serious questions about whether Alex Cole-Hamilton misled people and he needs to answer this in full as these issues are too important to be swept under the carpet.”