Alex Salmond has made a dramatic return to frontline politics with the launch of a new political party to strengthen Scotland’s bid for independence.
His new Alba party will stand at least 32 “list” candidates in the May 6 elections to try and secure what Salmond called a “supermajority” to secure Scottish independence.
The 66-year-old former first minister denied Alba will weaken the SNP – the party he led for more than two decades – and confirmed his name will be on the ballot for the vote to be held in less than six weeks time.
Alba – option for SNP supporters ‘otherwise wasted’ votes
Scotland’s mix of ‘first-past-the-post’ and proportional representation systems for the Holyrood elections makes it extremely difficult for any party to gain an outright majority.
Alba will thereby give SNP voters the chance to use their “otherwise wasted” list votes, said associate director of polling company Savanta ComRes, Chris Hopkins.
Salmond himself said “we wish the SNP well in sweeping the country on the [‘first-past-the-post’] constituency ballot”, while reminding: “At the last election there were nearly one million wasted SNP votes on the regional list. Only four SNP MSPs were elected in that way. In yesterday’s Survation poll the SNP would elect no regional seats at all from a million votes on the list.”
However, if Alba candidates win those list seats, there will be 90 or more pro-independence MSPs in Holyrood, out of 129 – at the cost of Labour and Conservative MSPs who pick up the top up seats from the list.
“Today Alba are hoisting a flag in the wind, planting a saltire on a hill,” said Salmond in his online launch of the party. “In the next few weeks, we’ll see how many will rally to our standard.”
Salmond and Sturgeon’s ‘tactics differ wildly’
Having fought a very public and divisive battle against the leadership of the SNP, Salmond’s return follows its escalation in recent weeks during which he accused first minister Nicola Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code and her allies of plotting against him.
The Times’ Scottish political editor, Kieran Andrews, suggests Salmond sees his Alba party as complimenting the SNP’s goal for independence, “but scratch beneath the surface and the tactics about how to achieve the break-up of the Union diverge wildly.”
Sturgeon is seeking to agree a referendum with the UK government that cannot be challenged legally, while Salmond’s comments today imply a referendum is not necessarily needed to achieve independence.
The Financial Times’ take on Salmond’s comeback is that it “bodes ill for Sturgeon and SNP”, with Mark Diffey, a consultant on Scottish public opinion opining: “It’s probably the last thing the SNP would want.”
The Guardian is unambiguous and calls Salmond’s move “the politics of revenge”, his return “a symbol of decay, not renewal, in Scottish politics” which has been consumed for two years by the personal rivalry between the former first minister and his successor.
‘Alba will be one of a multitude of pro-independence SNP splinter parties’
Despite being acquitted of sexually assaulting nine women in March 2020, Salmond’s personal polling is even worse than Boris Johnson’s north of the border and Alba is, Andrews writes: “one of a multitude of pro-independence SNP splinter parties that are currently planning to stand on the list, not including the Greens who already have five MSPs.”
Salmond stepped down as leader of the SNP and Scotland’s first minister following the 2014 referendum defeat and was asked today, in every interview, if he would apologise to the women who made the allegations. He repeatedly told journalists and news presenters that he has been acquitted by two judges, a jury and three inquiries, and said “it is time to move on”.
The Guardian states that Salmond, the former MSP and MP for Banff and Buchan in north-east Scotland, “continues to enjoy considerable local support.”