Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond on Friday launched a new political party to contest crucial elections to the Edinburgh parliament, in a fresh twist to a bitter rift with his successor Nicola Sturgeon.
Mr Salmond's new pro-independence Alba party, named after the Scots Gaelic for Scotland, will contest so-called regional list seats in the Scottish parliament elections on May 6th.
It means Alba will be competing with the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) led by Ms Sturgeon.
Mr Salmond was leader of the SNP until 2014, and later quit the party after sexual harassment complaints were made against him by Scottish government officials.
He said on Friday that Alba could help build a “supermajority” for Scottish independence at the May 6th elections. “The tactics are to stand on the regional list to secure the supermajority for independence in our parliament,” Mr Salmond told an online party launch.
But the SNP issued a sharp response to the launch of Alba, saying: “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.”
Mr Salmond’s conduct “to put it mildly” raised “real questions about the appropriateness of a return to public office”, it added.
The Scottish parliament’s hybrid voting system is intended to make it more proportionally representative and give representation to smaller parties that are unlikely to win in constituencies.
Constituency members of the parliament are elected using a first-past-the-post voting system. Additional members are elected based on the proportion of list votes a party secures in larger regions.
Mr Salmond said he wanted to encourage voters to back the SNP in constituencies, while supporting Alba on regional lists. He waved aside suggestions he was seeking to hurt the SNP. “We are not challenging the SNP in constituencies,” said Mr Salmond. “Our campaign . . . is going to be entirely positive.”
But the SNP is keen to maximise its vote in the Scottish parliament elections, in an effort to secure an overall majority on May 6th and then push for a referendum on independence.
Mr Salmond’s rift with Ms Sturgeon stems from a Scottish government investigation into complaints of sexual harassment against him by civil servants.
In 2019 the Scottish government was forced to concede in court that its inquiry into the complaints against Mr Salmond had been unlawful because it was “procedurally unfair” and “tainted by apparent bias”.
At a criminal trial last year, Mr Salmond was acquitted of all 13 sexual offence charges against him.
Mr Salmond last month accused Ms Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code by misleading parliament about meetings in 2018 at which the two discussed the harassment complaints against him by civil servants.
But last week former Irish director of public prosecutions James Hamilton, Ms Sturgeon's independent adviser on the ministerial code, cleared her of breaching the code.
The Scottish Conservatives said right-thinking people would want nothing to do with Mr Salmond or his new party “rabble”.
"Alex Salmond is a discredited figure who admitted appalling behaviour towards women during his time as SNP first minister," said Douglas Ross, Scottish Tory leader. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021