Former Scottish leader launches new pro-independence party

International

FILE – In this Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014 file photo, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond poses for photographs in Turriff, Scotland. The former First Minister is setting up a new pro-independence party that will field candidates in the country’s upcoming elections. Salmond, who was acquitted last year in a sexual assault trial, said Friday, March 26, 2021 that the Alba Party — named after the Gaelic word for Scotland — will “promote new ideas about taking Scotland forward, giving primacy to economic recovery from the pandemic and the achievement of independence for our country.” (AP Photo/Scott Heppell, file)

LONDON (AP) — Scotland’s former first minister, Alex Salmond, announced Friday that he is making a return to frontline politics at the head of a new pro-independence party in upcoming elections.

Salmond, who was acquitted last year in a sexual assault trial, denied that the launch of his party named Alba — the Scottish Gaelic word for Scotland — would weaken the cause of independence from the United Kingdom in the May 6 Scottish Parliament election.

The governing Scottish National Party, which Salmond led for two decades until 2014, hopes to use the vote as a springboard to another referendum on Scottish independence. Salmond is involved in a bitter feud with his successor as SNP leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“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,” Salmond said during the online launch.

He insisted that Alba would help complement the SNP, voicing hope that a “super-majority” for independence will emerge after the elections as a result of the launch of the new party.

“Our campaign that we have launched is going to be entirely positive,” Salmond said.

He said Alba would not run against the SNP in Scotland’s 73 parliamentary constituencies but would field candidates in the regional contest used to elect the other 56 members of the Scottish Parliament.

Salmond was Scotland’s first minister between 2007 and 2014, playing a major role in transforming the separatist party into Scotland’s dominant political force. He took the country to the brink of independence in a 2014 referendum, and stepped down as first minister after losing the vote. Sturgeon — his long-time friend and deputy — replaced him.

However, the two have been locked in a feud over who knew what and when about the sexual assault allegations against Salmond.

Earlier this week, a Scottish parliamentary investigation concluded in a split decision that Sturgeon misled lawmakers about the allegations against her predecessor. The finding came a day after a separate inquiry, by a senior lawyer, cleared Sturgeon of wrongdoing in the scandal that has roiled Scottish politics for weeks.

Sturgeon hailed the report clearing her and condemned the one that found fault. She accused political opponents of trying to “bully” her out of office.

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