Former first minister Alex Salmond has unveiled a new pro-independence political party, which he will lead into the upcoming Scottish Parliament election.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr Salmond said the Alba party will be a list party, and will not campaign against the SNP in constituency elections.
Founded by Laurie Flynn, the Alba Party was registered with the electoral commission in January, and will be led by Mr Salmond.
He described the party’s aims as working toward a “successful, socially just, environmentally responsible, independent country”.
Mr Salmond said: “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.”
Will the Alba party split the independence vote?
Many have already questioned whether the decision to launch a new independence party could actually be detrimental to the independence cause, by splitting the vote and therefore weakening the mandate.
While it is likely true that a significant majority for the Scottish National Party would best demonstrate the appetite for independence, Mr Salmond has said he wants to “support” the SNP in gaining a mandate.
Mr Salmond described his party’s “supermajority strategy” which will see them stand candidates only in the regional lists.
He said: “The Alba Party is a list party, we are standing only in the list. We are not challenging the SNP in the constituencies. Indeed we are saying vote SNP or for an independence party on the constituency section. We are giving that support.”
The former first minister said he expects the constituency ballot to be “dominated by the Scottish National Party”, but said that his new party will contribute to “the new platform that we’re going to have to build on independence” and “ideas to get us out of the pandemic in an economic sense as quickly as possible”.
He added: “Our campaign that we have launched is going to be entirely positive.”
Who are the Alba Party candidates?
The party will stand at least four candidates in the regional lists, including Chris McEleny, an SNP councillor for Inverclyde.
It is thought that Alex Salmond will stand in the North East regional constituency, where he will hope to win elected office for the first time since he lost a seat in Westminster at the 2017 general election.
Mr McEleny has resigned from his former party, the SNP, and will stand in the West of Scotland, while Cynthia Guthrie will stand in the South of Scotland.
The self-described “bionic candidate” and lawyer, Eva Comrie, will stand for the party in the Mid-Scotland and Fife region.
Ms Comrie credits the NHS in Scotland with saving her life, having provided her with “a couple of dozen prosthetic legs over the years” and a titanium spine.
She said: “Since Scotland’s independent autonomous education and health services created and rebuilt me, I fully intend to return the favour by helping to rebuild Scotland as an independent and spirited, peace loving egalitarian country.”
Has the SNP responded to the launch of Alba?
The SNP has described Mr Salmond’s announcement as “the most predictable development in Scottish politics”, and that the “only way to secure strong leadership” and a referendum is to back them.
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.”
“Our plans to get Scotland through and out of the Covid crisis, and support a recovery with fairness and equality at its heart, with the opportunity to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands, will be the focus of our election campaign.
“The only way to secure strong leadership, a referendum on independence, and a positive future for the country is to cast both votes for the SNP on May 6.”