LONDON (Reuters) – Scotland’s former political leader Alex Salmond said on Thursday his new pro-independence party, which could cost the ruling Scottish National Party votes in a May election, had nothing to do with his bitter row with the country’s current leader.
Salmond said people had been “quite upset” after he launched the Alba Party last week, stunning Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, his former protégé but with whom he fell out during a bitter legal dispute.
“Frankly, the cause of independence is much, much bigger than personalities,” Salmond told BBC radio.
“It’s a noble cause, a huge cause for Scotland, and everybody through history, but now, has to put aside personal differences and work for that national interest.”
Sturgeon’s SNP has promised to hold another independence referendum should the party win a majority in elections on May 6. Salmond was Sturgeon’s mentor during his seven years as first minister and he led the secessionist campaign in the 2014 independence referendum when Scots voted 55%-45% to remain in the United Kingdom.
Asked about his comments that Sturgeon’s leadership had failed over her government’s handling of sexual harassment claims against him, Salmond said: “Everybody in politics has to take criticism from time to time, but I’m talking about the cause of advancing Scotland’s case for independence.”
Salmond was cleared of committing multiple sex offences against women last year.
He said his aim was to maximise the number of pro-independence lawmakers and a secessionist “supermajority” in the Scottish parliament after the May elections would make it hard for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to deny another vote.
“A supermajority in the parliament, that is composed of not just one party the SNP, but other independence parties like Alba, will change that power balance considerably, because no Tory (Conservative) prime minister wants to be trying to face down an entire parliament or an entire people,” he said.
Opinion polls have shown support and opposition to independence now roughly equal among voters.
(Writing by William Schomberg and Andrew MacAksill; Editing by Michael Holden)