Alex Salmond has announced his return to politics as leader of a “new force” for Scottish independence called the Alba Party.
The former SNP leader said his new party will field candidates in May’s Holyrood elections, in a move aimed at building a “super majority” for independence.
It follows a dramatic split between Salmond and his successor Nicola Sturgeon over the Scottish government’s botched handling of sex harassment allegations against him in the wake of Me Too.
Speaking on Friday part of an online launch event beset by technical problems, he 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.”
He said the aim of the party was to work towards a “successful, socially just, environmentally responsible, independent country”.
Salmond himself will be contesting the North East regional constituency.
“Today, Alba is hoisting a flag in the wind, planting our Saltire on a hill,” he said.
“In the next few weeks, we’ll see how many will rally to our standard.”
He said Alba will run a “positive” campaign, adding: “I see different strands of independence thinking in the parliament as a great strength of achieving progress in the negotiations which would happen, if that parliament is elected, with the UK government.
“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.
“I see the range of independence viewpoints as a strength and I hope that Alba can contribute to that.”
Salmond was acquitted of sex offence charges at a criminal trial and was awarded £512,250 at a judicial review of the Scottish government’s complaints process.
He said this week he would take fresh legal action over the conduct of the Scottish government’s top civil servant Leslie Evans.
A spokesperson for the SNP hit out at Salmond’s decision to return to politics.
They said: “This is perhaps the most predictable development in Scottish politics for 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 concerns about the appropriateness of a return to political office.”
On Monday, an independent inquiry, led by Ireland’s top prosecutor James Hamilton, cleared the FM of all claims she breached the ministerial code.
But on Tuesday, a Holyrood committee report on the Scottish government’s handling of the Salmond complaints claimed the FM misled MSPs in key parts of her evidence.
Both inquiries were set up after a judicial review of the Scottish government’s investigation found the sex harassment complaints process was “tainted by apparent bias” in 2019.