Alex Salmond, former first minister, announced he will be among the candidates who will stand for the Alba Party on regional lists. The announcement sent shockwaves through Holyrood at the end of an already dramatic week. And in the latest blow to Nicola Sturgeon, one of her MPs – Kenny MacAskill, the former Scottish Justice Secretary – announced on Saturday that he has defected to the Alba Party.
What will this new party mean for the SNP?
The Scottish National Party is leagues ahead in the polls – but these haven’t accounted for the Alba Party yet.
The effect of Mr Salmond’s announcement and campaigning tactics will only become clear in the coming weeks.
However, concern is growing in Holyrood that this will do little but split the pro-independence vote and prevent the SNP winning an overall majority, concerns which are only building with the announcement that Mr MacAskill has defected.
READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon in jeopardy as MP breaks cover to issue warning
Mr MacAskill reportedly wrote to his staff: “I will be joining the newly-formed Alba Party to deliver [a] supermajority for independence through the list vote and which I believe’s essential to achieving our nation’s independence.”
The SNP said there were “real questions” about Mr Salmond’s suitability to return to public office.
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.”
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.”
He said his party would do “everything possible” to block another independence referendum and “ensure the Scottish Parliament works towards rebuilding and recovery after the pandemic”.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the people of Scotland deserved more than “score-settling” and “old politics”.
He said: “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.”
Mr Salmond has insisted that Alba is not a threat to the SNP.
He said that under his leadership, the Alba Party was seeking to “build a supermajority for independence in the Scottish parliament”.
He said: “We intend to contribute policy ideas to assist Scotland’s economic recovery and to help build an independence platform to face the new political realities.”
He said Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has already dismissed the SNP’s request for a second independence referendum, would “find it much more difficult to say no to a parliament and a country.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrats chair Alistair Carmichael MP said the move was evidence of feuding within the Nationalist movement.
He 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.”
The Scottish Greens’ Ross Greer told the BBC News Channel: “This is the very public meltdown of a thoroughly disgraced individual.”