Scotland:: Sky::Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond has re-entered frontline politics to become the leader of the new pro-independence Alba Party.
The party was registered with the Electoral Commission in January by retired TV producer Laurie Flynn and has now been formally launched by Mr Salmond.
Alba Party will stand candidates – including Mr Salmond himself – in the Scottish parliament elections on 6 May.
The 66-year-old on Friday set out the party’s aim of working towards a “successful, socially just, environmentally responsible, independent country”.
The dramatic development comes after Mr Salmond’s recent battles with the Scottish government, led by first minister Nicola Sturgeon, over its handling of harassment allegations against him.
“Today I’m announcing the public launch of a new political force, the Alba Party,” Mr Salmond said in a statement.
“Alba will contest the upcoming Scottish elections as a list-only party, seeking to build a super-majority for independence in the Scottish parliament.
“Over the next six weeks we will promote new ideas about taking Scotland forward – giving primacy to economic recovery from the pandemic and the achievement of independence for our country.
“We expect to field a minimum of four candidates in each regional list and we’re hoping to elect Alba MSPs from every area of Scotland.”
Mr Salmond added the Alba Party were “making an entirely positive statement and also asking people to come forward and give us support”.
He hopes to build his “supermajority” by taking advantage of the way members of the Scottish Parliament are selected through the Additional Member System, in which each person has two votes.
Scotland is divided into 73 constituencies for Holyrood elections and each constituency elects one MSP via the first past the post system.
However, voters get another vote with which to elect 56 additional MSPs, with Scotland divided into eight regions.
Each region elects seven regional MSPs, with people using this extra vote to support a party rather than an individual.
The parties are then allocated a number of MSPs based on their proportion of the vote, with regional MSPs selected from lists compiled by parties.
It is by this means – by only fielding candidates for the extra regional seats – that Mr Salmond believes his party will avoid taking votes from the SNP and get more MSPs elected who support independence – his so-called “super-majority”.
Among the Alba Party’s candidates are Chris McEleny, a former SNP councillor in Inverclyde, while Mr Salmond has been touted to contest the North East regional constituency.
“The Alba Party is a list party, we are standing only in the list,” he explained.
“We are not challenging the SNP in the constituencies. Indeed we are saying vote SNP or for an independent party on the constituency section.
“We are giving that support. Our campaign that we have launched is going to be entirely positive.”
SNP leader Ms Sturgeon has vowed, if she wins a majority at the Scottish parliament elections, she will hold a new independence referendum, regardless of whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson consents to the move.
And Mr Salmond suggested his introduction of a new party would not harm the push for Scottish independence.
“We think building that substantial majority in the Scottish parliament is the key to unlock that question and it’s the key to the way forward,” he said.
“If Alba helps – and it is helping because we are not standing on the constituency ballot, we expect that to be dominated by the SNP – but if Alba can help by contributing independence-supporting MSPs and their expertise they’re contributing to the new platform that we’re going to have to build on independence.”
He added that “different strands of independence thinking” at Holyrood would be a “great strength” in possible future negotiations with Westminster over a fresh referendum.
“I think the position of Boris Johnson will be fundamentally weaker if he has to say no to an entire parliament representing an entire nation as opposed to being able to cast it as just something which is being promoted by the SNP,” Mr Salmond said.