SNP has ‘sleeper agents’ at work inside Number 10 spying on Boris Johnson

Alex Cole-Hamilton appears to swear in committee meeting

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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton made the stark comparison as he claimed the UK Government seemed to come up with” innovative ways to drive people into the arms of the Nationalists” every week. The Scottish First Minister said she wants a second independence referendum to take place before the end of 2023, subject to the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson would still have to grant permission for a legal vote and has so far signalled a no to granting a section 30 order required for a referendum.

Tory ministers also making moves to strengthen the union, which includes bypassing the Scottish Parliament when distributing funds for infrastructure projects and appointing Michael Gove as a Minister for Levelling Up.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “It feels like there are sleeper agents for the SNP at work within Number 10 right now.

“Every single week, the Conservatives seem to come up with innovative ways to drive people into the arms of the Nationalists.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton also used his speech at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference on Saturday to express his opposition to a second independence vote, branding it a “leap in the dark”.

The Edinburgh Western MSP made clear during the speech that there were “so many unanswered questions” about how an independent Scotland would work stressing he wouldn’t ask Scots to “write a blank cheque.”

He continued: “The direction may be wrong, the values of its governments may need recalibration, but the fundamentals of our United Kingdom are sound.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton also slated the Nats’ justification for a second independence referendum with Ms Sturgeon claiming the UK’s departure from the EU “changed the game on Scottish independence”.

But he made clear: “Brexit isn’t a reason for independence, it’s a warning against it.

“Let’s not forget that, Nicola Sturgeon decided that six months into a global pandemic was the ideal moment to restart her independence campaign.

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“She put civil servants back to work on fresh legislation, about the mechanics of a second referendum, when the Covid death toll was less than half of what it is today.”

The Liberal Democrat MSP concluded: “So my position on the constitution comes not from muscular unionism, but from a genuine belief that the answer to none of the problems we face can be found in borders or in flags.”

Alongside independence, he attacked the Scottish Government over its record on the NHS, as he called for ambulance waiting times – which have risen during the coronavirus crisis – to be published weekly.

And he made clear his opposition to “deceptive plans” from the SNP administration to establish a new National Care Service.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Unlike the NHS it won’t offer care that is free at the point of delivery.

“And it does so to hide what it truly is – another SNP power grab.”

During his speech, he announced the creation of a new Liberal Democrat Commission for a Just Economy, to be chaired by former MSP Lord Purvis.

This will make recommendations to next year’s party conference to “reset our liberal vision for Scotland” with a focus on areas such as social justice and human rights, the Scottish Liberal Democrat politician said.

Mr Cole-Hamilton finally challenged Nicola Sturgeon to tear up a deal the SNP-led Scottish Government signed with Heathrow airport before the start of the global Cop26 summit later this month.

He also insisted that if the First Minister does not “rip up” the memorandum of understanding signed with the London airport before the climate change convention gets underway on October 31, global leaders would not “take seriously” her commitment to tackling climate change.

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The Scottish Government formally backed a third runway at that airport as it signed a memorandum of understanding linked to the benefits it believed this could bring to Scotland in October 2016. 

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “I have three words for Nicola Sturgeon – rip it up.

“Rip up your contract in support of a third runway at Heathrow. And do it before Cop26 lands in Glasgow.

“Because unless you do First Minister, I can’t take your commitment to the climate emergency seriously, and neither should the watching world.”

The conference was his first since taking on the job of Scottish Liberal Democrat leader in August from Wille Rennie. 

But a Scottish Conservative spokesperson, said: “The Liberal Democrats are an irrelevant party in Scotland now.

“Their new leader is still singing from the same hymn sheet as his predecessor.”

A UK Government source branded the idea of SNP sleeper agents in No 10 as “ridiculous” and “fanciful”. 

The SNP has been approached for comment.

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