Two members of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) have defected to Alex Salmond’s new Alba Party. Neale Hanvey followed East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill in joining the newly-formed operation.
Salmond announced he would be standing as a candidate in May’s Holyrood election on 26 March. This would be as part of plans to gain a “supermajority” for independence supporters in the Parliament. As the BBC explained:
by running candidates across Scotland, it has the potential to change the nature of the race in more or less every seat – partly because of the way Scotland’s voting system works.
Under that system, MSPs can be elected either as a representative of a constituency or from one of eight regions of Scotland.
In 2016, the SNP got the vast majority of its wins from the constituency contests – it had just four regional list MSPs.
The Scottish Greens stand primarily on the regional lists, and usually aim to sweep up the “second votes” of pro-independence types who vote SNP in their constituencies.
Salmond told Times Radio:
I hope and believe that Scottish nationalists at Westminster will be looking to the day that he or she would be transferred to the Scottish Parliament and it’s quite reasonable that Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey think that that is going to be within this term of the parliament given the political opportunity that we now sense.
Hanvey was previously suspended by the SNP for using antisemitic language on social media. He apologised for any offence caused in the days following his suspension.
The MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath also lost his role as SNP vaccine spokesman in February. This was after posting a message on a crowdfunder page raising that was money to bring a defamation action against Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman and others.
The people of Scotland will always be my priority and it’s therefore a very real honour to be standing for Alba and an independence supermajority.
Unhappy unionists united
Scottish Labour campaign co-chair Neil Bibby said:
Neale Hanvey and Kenny MacAskill must both stand down and give their constituents the chance to elect politicians more interested in guaranteeing Scotland’s recovery than endlessly refighting yesterday’s war.
Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign chair Alistair Carmichael MP said:
Like paint chipping off an old and decaying wall, Neale Hanvey’s defection is the latest episode in the nationalists’ bitter, twisted and divided civil war.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said:
Sturgeon and Salmond may now despise each other but they are united by their obsessive determination to rip Scotland out of the United Kingdom.
All focus should be on the pandemic and our recovery but Sturgeon’s SNP and Salmond’s ultra-nationalists want this election to be another divisive fight about the constitution.
Former Holyrood justice secretary MacAskill said he would not be standing down to allow a by-election. He told Sky’s Ridge on Sunday:
During the Parliament I served in, Alex Salmond and indeed John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister of the Scottish Parliament, stood on a dual mandate and represented both Westminster and Holyrood.
I’ll be seeking to represent Holyrood as well as containing and continuing to serve my constituents in East Lothian.
North Lanarkshire councillor Lynne Anderson has also defected from the SNP to Alba.
Really delighted to welcome Cllr Lynne Anderson to the @AlbaParty
As the SNP’s National Equalities convener I know she will be a great candidate in Central Scotland, and as part of a #SuperMajority for independence she will be a great MSP
— Christopher McEleny (@ChrisMcEleny) March 28, 2021
The party launch comes after a turbulent period for the SNP and the Scottish Government, led by Salmond’s successor Nicola Sturgeon. The Alba Party will only be standing candidates in the regional lists in an attempt to boost pro-independence numbers in Holyrood.
Salmond urged voters to back the SNP or another pro-independence party in the constituency seats.
Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, said:
This new party has been thrown together at the last minute by a man who is less popular in Scotland than Boris Johnson is. The Scottish Greens have shown progress in every election in Scotland. We’ve had MSPs in the Parliament since the beginning and we have an excellent track record of delivering things like fairer taxes in Scotland.
An SNP spokesman said:
The SNP is focused on tackling Covid-19 and securing a strong, fair and green recovery for Scotland as an independent country in a post-pandemic referendum. Only both votes SNP on May 6 can put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s.