Former FM returns
Salmond launches new Alba party to fight election
Return to frontline politics for Alex Salmond
Former SNP leader Alex Salmond is launching a pro-independence party which will contest seats in the Scottish Parliament election.
Mr Salmond, who last sat as an MSP in 2015 prior to his election to Westminster, said he expected the party to field at least four candidates in the regional lists in every part of the country.
Mr Salmond claimed that if Alba won regional list seats, this could lead to there being 90 or more MSPs at Holyrood who support independence.
His move will be seen as having a potentially damaging affect on the SNP’s vote. Others say it will harden the case for independence and he has claimed it will create a “super-majority”.
It follows another tumultuous week at Holyrood which included Mr Salmond’s declared intention to take fresh legal action over the conduct of the Scottish government’s top civil servant, the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans.
A report by MSPs on Tuesday described the government’s handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond as “seriously flawed”.
The previous day, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was cleared of breaching the ministerial code over her involvement in the Alex Salmond saga.
The SNP issued a robust dismissal of Mr Salmond’s plans. A spokesperson said: “This is perhaps the most predictable development in Scottish politics for quite some time.
“At this time of crisis, the interests of the country must come first and should not be obscured by the self interest of someone who shows no sign whatsoever of reflecting on serious concerns about his own conduct – concerns which, to put it mildly, raise real questions about the appropriateness of a return to public office.
“The SNP has led the country through the last twelve months of the Covid pandemic, and at this election we offer the experienced, responsible and forward looking leadership that the country needs.
“Our plans to get Scotland through and out of the Covid crisis, and support a recovery with fairness and equality at its heart, with the opportunity to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands, will be the focus of our election campaign.
“The only way to secure strong leadership, a referendum on independence, and a positive future for the country is to cast both votes for the SNP on May 6.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Alex Salmond is a discredited figure who admitted appalling behaviour towards women during his time as SNP First Minister and right-thinking people will want nothing to do with him or his new party.
“The Scottish Conservatives are the only party in Scotland with the strength and determination to take on all Nationalists – whether that’s Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP or Salmond’s rabble.
Douglas Ross: ‘stark choice’
“This election has become even more important. There is a stark choice between destructive Nationalist separation and a positive future for Scotland and our place in the United Kingdom.
“One one side is Salmond, Sturgeon and a Labour party too weak to stand up to them with the Scottish Conservatives firmly on the other.
“We will do everything possible to block another divisive referendum and ensure the Scottish Parliament works towards rebuilding and recovery after the pandemic.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign chair Alistair Carmichael MP said: “There are no questions about Scotland’s future to which Alex Salmond is the answer.
“This astonishing announcement shows just how divided the SNP are. A few years ago no one could have imagined that the former First Minister and his protege would be at one another’s throats.
“It shows the arrogance of the nationalists that they want to use the Scottish Parliament as an arena to fight their own feuds instead of being a forum to put recovery first and to make life better for the people of Scotland.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “The people of Scotland deserve so much better than the score settling and old politics that the SNP and Tories are offering.
“We are still in the midst of a pandemic. Lives and livelihoods are still at risk. This election must be about our national recovery and the people of Scotland’s priorities, not the old arguments between personalities who believe their interest matters more than the national interest.
“Our politics must be better than this. Scottish Labour, under my leadership, will focus on Scotland’s recovery.
“We can’t trust the divided SNP with recovery, nor can we trust Boris Johnson’s Tories.
“I am fighting this election to deliver a National Recovery Plan for Scotland and to focus on what unites our country, not what divides us.”
… more follows