Alex Salmond To Form New Political Party Called "Alba"
Scotland's former first minister Alex Salmond has announced he is forming a new political party and will stand candidates in the Scottish elections this May.
Salmond, who led the Scottish National Party for over twenty years, has made the split with his party after a bitter fallout with current first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
His new party "Alba" will stand candidates in the forthcoming elections for the Scottish Parliament and said they will push to get a majority for independence.
In a statement on Friday he said: "I'm announcing the public launch of a new political force: the Alba Party.
"Alba will contest the upcoming Scottish elections as a list-only party under my leadership, seeking to build a super majority for independence in the Scottish Parliament."
His first candidates include himself, standing in the North East region of Scotland, Eve Comrie, for the mid-Scotland and Fife region, and who has defected from the SNP. Chris McEleny, a former SNP councillor has also defected to stand in the West of Scotland. Business leader Cynthia Guthrie will also stand.
How the Alba party will impact on May's elections will depend on Salmond's vote share, however, there's speculation even a low vote for Alba could hurt the SNP in some regions, and also squeezing the Conservative and Liberal Democrat 'unionist vote' in other parts of Scotland.
Fundamentally however, Salmond's intervention forces independence onto the election agenda, ensuring Sturgeon has to talk about it far more than she had hoped. Her election was due to be fought on the grounds of her competence in the Covid-19 response. She is said to have wanted to discuss independence quietly to try and win over those still undecided or wary of another referendum.
A number of polls have also shown Salmond's personal popularity in Scotland is low.
The fallout between Sturgeon and Salmond, who was once her political mentor and close friend and ally, has escalated in recent weeks.
A year ago Salmond was cleared of allegedly sexually assaulting nine women while he was Scotland's First Minister.
What Sturgeon knew about a government investigation into Salmond's alleged behaviour, and at what point she was told certain information, has been the subject of a complex period of inquiries and investigations into her own conduct.
She was found to have not breach the ministerial code in relation to meetings with Salmond, according to an independent investigation.
Salmond refutes all the allegations made against him.
There are 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) altogether.
In the Scottish electoral system, voters get a first vote for an area or constituency Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP). There are 73 constituency MSPs and this is a first-past-the-post voting system.
They are also given the opportunity, a second vote, to vote for a political party and this produces 56 additional members and is designed to make the result more proportional. This is the list-vote and the place where Salmond is running his candidates. There are seven of these people elected per Scottish region, and Salmond believes Alba can win seats that might normally go to those elected towards the bottom of the list.
This is to try and achieve a "super-majority" for independence, he claimed.
The reaction from with the SNP politicians shows the significant splits over the launch of the party, and a complex network of allegiences.
Current SNP MP for East Lothian, Kenny MacAskill, served in Salmond's government in Scotland before being elected to Westminster. He has no reference to the political party he is from on his Twitter bio and today he liked several Tweets on the launch of Alba.
Angus B MacNeil, MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, formerly known as the Western Isles constitency, also retweeted news of the launch of the party. He told PoliticsHome he has no plans to switch parties.
Curiously, SNP MP for Glasgow South and the party's spokesperson for defence in Westmisnter Tweeted in the last two hours: "HAHAHAHAHAHA."
On more defections, Salmond said at a press conference: "We are hoisting a flag today and this will be the first everybody has heard of the Alba party. We are planting our flag in the wind and we will see who rallies to the banner."
"We will be looking for people who want to be candidates and we've got until next Wednesday to put forward candidates."
Asked in the same press conference whether he was a "bully and a crook" as he was described in court, or whether he had reformed.
"There's a reason we have juries in this country and a reason for having charges and being able to answer them. The verdict matters," he said.
"I'm hoping as I put forward in a positive way the case for an independent Scotland... the ideas we have... is a strong argument people look to. The way people express is will contribute to the character judgements you're looking at.
"Either Alba will be sucessful...or it won't and we will find out over the next six weeks."
Asked if he felt he had anything to apologise for on his conduct towards women, he said: "It's crucially important that people now accept what has happened after two court judgements, a jury in the High Court, two judges, three inquiries, it seems a good time to accept what's been said and take the implications of the recommendations as I've laid out and move on and debate the future of Scotland."
New Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: "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."