Alex Salmond launches new independence-focused Alba party

Figcaption Ale Salmond Launches New Independence Focused Alba Party
Posted at: Author: Rain TV UK

Alex Salmond has launched a new political party in what he described as a bid to build a super-majority for independence in the next Scottish parliament, and which could also enable his own return to Holyrood.

Launching the Alba party on Friday, he denied the “new political force” would rival the Scottish National party, which he led for more than two decades, and insisted that the presence of other pro-independence parties in the parliament would make the position of the Westminster government in refusing powers to hold a second independence referendum “fundamentally weaker”.

Established parties immediately raised doubts about Salmond’s suitability to be a candidate or lead a political party, with the SNP responding that the interests of the country as it emerges from a pandemic “should not be obscured by the self-interest of someone who shows no sign whatsoever of reflecting on serious concerns about his own conduct”.

During the press conference Salmond side-stepped numerous questions about his suitability as a candidate and his previous treatment of female staff, following the publication days ago of evidence to a Holyrood inquiry that described a culture of complicity around his allegedly inappropriate behaviour during his time in office.

Salmond said that the list-only party expected to field a minimum of four candidates in each regional list, with the aim of electing Alba MSPs from every area of Scotland. Salmond also announced he would be a list candidate in the north-east region for the Scottish parliament elections, which will be held on 6 May.

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The announcement comes after Salmond threatened further legal action against Leslie Evans, Scotland’s most senior civil servant, on Wednesday, saying he felt compelled to do so because she “still refuses to accept real responsibility” for the expensive failures of the internal inquiry into harassment claims against him.

He also called for a police inquiry into the leak of the Scottish government’s botched harassment inquiry findings. Nicola Sturgeon, who was cleared of breaching the ministerial code over her dealings with Salmond around the claims, has made clear her support for Evans.

On Tuesday, the two women who originally made sexual harassment complaints against him described a culture of permissiveness at the heart of government, where a “blind eye” was turned to his behaviour. Following a subsequent police investigation and trial, a jury acquitted Salmond of all charges.

Salmond said an independence super-majority would make the position of the Westminster government and Boris Johnson, who has consistently said he will refuse any request from Holyrood for the necessary powers to hold a second independence referendum, significantly weaker.

He said: “It is fundamentally more difficult for the Westminster government to take on a parliament and a people than casting it as a party versus party dispute.”

Explaining that the party would only stand candidates on the regional lists, he said that “we wish the SNP well in sweeping the country on the constituency ballot”, but argued that voting for Alba would avoid wasting pro-independence votes. “At the last election there were nearly 1 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.”

He claimed that if Alba won regional list seats, this could result in 90 or more MSPs at Holyrood who supported independence. Appealing for interested individuals to come forward, Salmond said the party was still in the process of recruiting candidates in order to meet the deadline next week.

An SNP 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 12 months of the Covid pandemic, and at this election we offer the experienced, responsible and forward-looking leadership that the country needs.”

Unionist parties were similarly dismissive of the announcement, but suggested it revealed deep divisions in the nationalist camp. The Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, described Salmond as “a discredited figure”, adding that “right-thinking people will want nothing to do with him or his new party”. The 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”.

Salmond has previously served as MP and MSP for Banff and Buchan, north-east Scotland, where he continues to enjoy considerable local support.

Of the Scottish parliament’s MSPs, 73 are elected to represent first past the post constituencies, while the remaining 56 are elected by the additional member system.

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