Sturgeon questions ‘appropriateness’ of Salmond election bid
On Friday, former SNP leader Alex Salmond announced the creation of a new pro-independence party which will contest the Scottish Parliament election. The new Alba Party aims to stand at least 32 regional list candidates in the May 6 elections with the goal of winning a “supermajority” of pro-independence MPs at Holyrood. The former first minister said he would be among the candidates who will stand for the Alba Party on regional lists.
In an online address, Mr Salmond declared: “Today, Alba is hoisting a flag in the wind, planting a saltire on a hill. In the next few weeks, we’ll see how many will rally to our standard.”
The initiative was dismissed officially by the SNP, which branded it an act of “self-interest” by the Former First Minister, who has been embroiled in a bitter feud with Nicola Sturgeon over her handling of sexual harassment allegations against him, which he was cleared of in court.
Ms Sturgeon is keen to maximise her party’s vote in the Scottish elections, in an effort to secure an overall majority and then push for a second referendum on independence.
While Mr Salmond insists Alba will not be a threat to the SNP – as it will not challenge the SNP in the constituency contests and would be a “list-only” party analysts say it could make it more difficult for the SNP to win a majority in its own right and thus weaken its hand against Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Leonardo Carella, a PhD Candidate at the University of Oxford, produced a model, which aims to explain how exactly Alba “could do real damage” to the SNP.
Sturgeon’s nightmare comes true as model shows how ‘Alba could do real damage’
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He wrote on Twitter: “On a good night for the SNP (in which they’d win 62 constituencies: uniform swing on latest BMG poll), Alba would waste pro-indy votes as long as it stays between 1.5 and 5 percent.
“After that ‘slump’, Alba starts benefiting the indy camp.
“I think there’s more to this: ALBA could do some real damage if they split pro-indy list votes with the Greens or if the SNP has a bad night in the constituencies and needs list votes.”
Attaching a model, supporting his evidence, Mr Carella added: “This is how Alba could do real damage to the independence cause: if they start eating not only into the SNP but also into the Scottish Greens’ (strategic) list vote.
“Fragmentation in the indy camp brings down the overall number of seats the bloc can hope for.”
The academic noted: “To be clear, what I’ve plotted above is not the indy majority – it’s the net *change* due to Alba.
“In both cases, assuming uniform swing and latest poll figs, pro-indy parties get over half (69) the seats, though in the ‘Green leakage’ scenario, it can get quite close.”
Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, also argued Mr Salmond’s party puts the SNP majority and new independence vote in doubt.
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SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon
Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond
He explained in a new report for the Sunday Times: “The SNP’s chances of winning an overall majority are potentially put at risk by Mr Salmond’s intervention.
“Although the party won only a handful of list seats in 2016 — and, according to the current polls, the same could happen again — the polls also suggest that the SNP only have a 50-50 chance of winning an overall majority and the two or three list seats they might win could make all the difference.
“True, if Mr Salmond could persuade the one in six SNP voters who do think favourably of him to back his party he could hope to win around 7 percent of the vote, and thus half a dozen or so seats at Holyrood.
“But that is probably the realistic upper limit of his ambition. Yet he could end up with too few votes to win any seats at all, yet still cost the SNP the list votes it needs for a majority.”
Yesterday Ms Sturgeon told of “significant questions about the appropriateness of his [Mr Salmond’s] return to public office given the concerns that have been raised about his behaviour previously”.
She accused her predecessor and former mentor of “gambling with Scotland’s future”.
Meanwhile, MP Kenny MacAskill announced he is quitting the SNP to stand for Mr Salmond’s new party.
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Leonardo Carella’s model
MP Kenny MacAskill announced he is quitting the SNP to stand for Mr Salmond’s new party
The former Scottish justice secretary said the Alba Party would help achieve independence.
The SNP have called for a by-election in response, and described his departure as “somewhat of a relief”.
Mr MacAskill is the most high-profile SNP name to defect to the new party.
He is now the Alba Party’s first MP at Westminster and said he would be forming an Alba Party group there.
He said the membership of Alba was “going through the roof”.
Mr MacAskill told the BBC: “The gamble isn’t going for an independent supermajority, the gamble is remaining in a United Kingdom led by Boris Johnson enforcing austerity and making the world a riskier place.
“This is a chance to deliver the right for Scotland to decide its own future and to reject the right of Boris Johnson to veto Scotland’s right to choose.”
He said he would continue to serve in East Lothian.
He added: “This is about continuing to drive forward the cause of independence.
“I didn’t leave the SNP – that I’ve been a member of for more than 40 years – lightly, but I’ve been committed to the cause of independence throughout all of my life and it’s never been more vital or necessary than now.
“Now is the time for Scotland to choose a different way, a different direction, but to be able to do that we require the powers of an independent nation and that’s why Alba was formed and that’s what a supermajority for independence will deliver in May.”