Nicola Sturgeon makes thinly-veiled attack on Alex Salmond as more defect from SNP to Alba party

Nicola Sturgeon fired both barrels at her former boss Alex Salmond today as she blasted those ‘who treat politics like a game’ amid a wave of defections to his new party.

The First Minister launched a thinly-veiled attack on her predecessor after several of her MPs and councillors defected to his new Alba nationalist group.

Mr Salmond announced Alba would stand candidates in the Holyrood elections in May, seeking to strengthen the movement for Scottish independence. 

But it comes amid a furious civil war in the SNP between followers of the current and former party leaders, over a sexual harassment probe into Mr Salmond, who was later cleared of all wrong-doing.

Speaking in Glasgow as part of the SNP’s election campaign this morning, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I don’t have much time these days for the ”who’s up/who’s down” approach to politics.

‘And I definitely have much less patience for those who treat politics like a game – and for indulging anyone who puts self interest ahead of the country’s best interests.

‘If the last year has taught us anything it’s that politics is about improving people’s lives or it is about nothing at all. And that takes purpose and hard work.’    

Two senior councillors announced they were quitting the party to line up alongside the former First Minister, who announced a dramatic return to Scottish politics last week.

The First Minister launched a thinly-veiled attack on her predecessor after several of her MPs and councillors defected to his new Alba nationalist group.

The First Minister launched a thinly-veiled attack on her predecessor after several of her MPs and councillors defected to his new Alba nationalist group.

Michelle Ferns

Ellen McMaster

Michelle Ferns (left), who sits on Glasgow City Council, and Ellen McMaster (right), who represents Arran on North Ayrshire Council, announced they were jumping ship to join Mr Salmond

Alba off then: The defectors so far 

Kenny MacAskill – East Lothian MP and a former SNP justice secretary

Neale Hanvey – Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP

Michelle Ferns – Glasgow City Council

Ellen McMaster –  North Ayrshire Council

Caroline McAllister -West Dunbartonshire Council and national women’s convener

Lynne Anderson –  North Lanarkshire Council and  former national equalities convener

Two senior councillors announced they were quitting the party to line up alongside the former First Minister, who announced a dramatic return to Scottish politics last week.

Michelle Ferns, who sits on Glasgow City Council, and Ellen McMaster, who represents Arran on North Ayrshire Council, announced they were jumping ship to join Mr Salmond.

Their defections come after two Westminster SNP MPs joined Alba at the weekend. 

Neale Hanvey, who represents Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, revealed yesterday he would be a candidate at Hoylrood elections in May.

Former SNP justice secretary Kenny MacAskill had already said he was jumping ship. 

The SNP’s national women’s convener, Councillor Caroline McAllister transfer to the Alba Party at the weekend, along with Lynne Anderson, the former national equalities convener.

Ms Ferns is also planning to stand as an MSP in the elections in six weeks’ time. In a statement announcing here change of allegiance, she said she ‘would be honoured to be a strong working-class voice within the party delivering for the people of Glasgow’ in May’s elections.

McMaster, a member of the SNP’s member conduct committee, told The National: ‘Everything I do is about that vision of where we want to go as a nation. The SNP has made massive improvements to the lives of the people of Scotland. It feels like we have stalled. It’s time to galvanise the movement. 

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: ‘Nicola Sturgeon’s conference speech ultimately all came down to one single issue – the SNP’s obsession with another, divisive, independence referendum.

‘When all our focus should be on rebuilding Scotland, the SNP are intent on dividing Scotland all over again.

‘Only the Scottish Conservatives have the strength to stop an SNP majority, stop their push for another, divisive referendum and get the Scottish Parliament 100% focussed on rebuilding Scotland and recovering from this pandemic.’

Mr Salmond faced anger yesterday after he suggested Scots could take to the streets to force another independence referendum, before urging Nicola Sturgeon to bury the hatchet and work with him to obtain one.

The former First Minister turned up the temperature in the ferocious debate by mooting ‘street demonstrations’ if Boris Johnson refused to agree to another vote on splitting the UK.

Mr Salmond made clear that he has not ‘forgiven’ Ms Sturgeon for the bitter row over the Scottish government’s handling of harassment complaints against him. He was awarded more than £500,000 and later cleared at a trial. 

Kenny MacAskill MP (left) announced yesterday he was deserting Nicola Sturgeon to stand for the newly-launched Alba party in May's Holyrood elections

Neale Hanvey, who represents Kircaldy and Cowdenbeath at Westminster, declared that he is joining Alba

Kenny MacAskill MP (left) is deserting Nicola Sturgeon to stand for the newly-launched Alba party in May’s Holyrood elections. Neale Hanvey (right), who represents Kircaldy and Cowdenbeath at Westminster, has also declared that he is joining Alba

Scotland operates a version of proportional representation, and Alba is only standing 'list' - or 'additional' MSP - candidates rather than running in the first-past-the-post constituency contests that could have inflicted more serious damage to the nationalists. Pollsters say that means it is more likely to hurt opposition parties, who typically end up with most of the list seats. The chart shows the result from the last Holyrood election in 2016

Scotland operates a version of proportional representation, and Alba is only standing ‘list’ – or ‘additional’ MSP – candidates rather than running in the first-past-the-post constituency contests that could have inflicted more serious damage to the nationalists. Pollsters say that means it is more likely to hurt opposition parties, who typically end up with most of the list seats. The chart shows the result from the last Holyrood election in 2016

‘Bairns not bombs’: Nicola Sturgeon attacks Boris Johnson over nukes plan 

Nicola Sturgeon made the Scottish elections into a personal battle with Boris Johnson today as she attacked the Prime Minister over nuclear weapons and past comments about Scots. 

She attacked Mr Johnson over plans unveiled to potentially increase the UK’s atomic weapons stockpile, in contrast to the SNP‘s long-held demand for a nuclear-free Scotland. 

And in a speech that referenced Mr Johnson six times, she also used his own words against him.

Speaking in Glasgow she cited a column on devolution he wrote in 2001, while a writer for the Daily Telegraph, in which he said the move was ‘allowing the Scots to make their own laws, while free-riding on English taxpayers.

‘Boris Johnson has made it clear what he thinks of the way we do things in Scotland. In the past, he has accused us of ”free-riding” on tax-payers south of the border.

He has said it is ‘monstrous’ that we have free personal care. And he said a pound spent in Croydon is of far more value than a pound spent in Strathclyde.

‘Many of his band of Brexiteers are on record with similar views. Now, because of the strength of the SNP the Tories probably think they wouldn’t get away with cutting Scotland’s share of UK spending.

‘But I’m pretty sure that’s what they would like to do.’

 

But he admitted that she is the ‘only viable’ candidate to be First Minister after the elections in May, and said the drive to split up the UK would be his priority over ‘personal differences’.   

‘I’m not saying forgive. I’m saying these sorts of things – when it’s the future of a country at stake – you have to put the past behind you, and campaign for the future,’ he told Times Radio.

Mr Salmond was also accused of a ‘dog whistle’ to independence extremists by suggesting ‘peaceful street demonstrations’ could be held if Westminster denies a referendum. 

Mr Salmond said he hoped that the election will produce a majority of MSPs in favour of breaking up the UK.

‘We should be negotiating as a parliament as quickly as possible using that array of independence supporting parties in that parliament to give the authority to say Scotland’s parliament, newly elected, representative, Scotland’s people want you to start negotiating about Scotland’s independence,’ he said. 

‘And then we’ll see what comes out of that negotiation, whether it be a section 50 referendum, whether it be a plebiscite organised by the Scottish Parliament, whether it be mobilising international opinion and international legal opinion, on Scotland’s right of self determination. 

‘Whether it be peaceful street demonstrations, whether it be the galvanization of Scottish opinion. Any and all of these things are tactics to achieve the strategy, which is to achieve Scottish independence.’ 

Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said on Twitter: ‘There’s the dog whistle to the zoomers, right there. 

‘We need to rebuild after a pandemic which has left no person or street or shop or business untouched. Use your vote to counter this Sturgeon/Salmond psychodrama once and for all.’ 

In a statement overnight, Mr Hanvey – elected to Gordon Brown’s old seat in 2019 – said: ‘Like so many, I have been angered by our powerlessness in the face of Brexit and share the frustration of many who feel the aspirations of the independence movement are being ignored.

‘The Alba Party provides a tonic for our movement with an unashamedly optimistic vision for Scotland’s impending transition to an independent European nation.’ 

In response to the speech, Liberal Democrat campaign chairman, Alistair Carmichael, said: ‘Nicola Sturgeon has had some well-documented failures of memory recently but even she must remember the way in which the last independence referendum completely occupied the bandwidth of the Scottish Government in the run-up to 2014.

‘Every single civil servant who is working on an independence Bill is one who could be working on the recovery from the pandemic so for the First Minister to claim that independence is not a distraction is clearly baloney.

‘While Willie Rennie sets out the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ plans for education and mental health, the First Minister will spend it fighting a running battle with her former political mentor.’

Labour’s Sarwar accuses other party leaders of using Scottish election to ‘settle scores’ 

Politicians like Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross and new Alba Party leader Alex Salmond are using the Holyrood election to focus on their egos and on ‘trying to settle scores’, Labour’s Anas Sarwar claimed today.

The Scottish Labour leader was withering about his political rivals as he insisted the May 6 ballot should be regarded as a ‘wartime election’.

Mr Sarwar said: ‘I don’t think the electorate would appreciate political parties playing games at a time of national emergency.

‘We are in the midst of a pandemic, this is not a normal election, this is a pandemic election, in many ways a wartime election.

‘What people would expect is not politicians playing games, not politicians focusing on egos, not politicians focusing on old arguments or trying to settle scores.’

His comments come in the wake of former first minister Alex Salmond announcing his plans for a dramatic return to the Scottish Parliament as leader of the new pro-independence Alba Party.

Speaking about the new party, Mr Sarwar said: ‘This is an attempt to settle scores, to seek revenge and about individual people’s egos.

‘Our politics is much better than that – or at least has to be much better than that.

‘I want no part of that kind of ego trip of one individual, because our recovery is more important than the psychodrama of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.

‘I have no time for these egos and personalities and the settling of old arguments. We need a relentless focus on a national recovery instead.’

Speaking about the poll on May 6, he said: ‘When I talk about it being a wartime election, I am talking about it being a war against poverty and against a virus that has decimated our country and challenged the very fabric of our society.’

With Mr Salmond hoping his new Alba Party can create a ‘super majority’ of MSPs in favour of independence in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Tory leader Mr Ross has been pressing Mr Sarwar to agree to a unionist pact to try to combat this.

The Scottish Labour leader, however, insisted their behaviour showed that Mr Ross, and also Mr Salmond, were treating ‘politics as a game’.

Mr Sarwar said: ‘This election is not a game, our Parliament is not a game, it is about focusing on what our priorities should be as a country and deciding what the focus of our Parliament should be for the next five years.’

He said he wanted to work ‘to bring our country together to focus on our national recovery’ and to ‘not be distracted by those old arguments, egos and settling of scores’.

Mr Sarwar, who stressed he was opposed to a second independence referendum, continued: ‘My position on the constitution is absolutely clear and it is purely a game-playing exercise for Douglas Ross to try and project some other kind of position on the constitution.

‘The reality is whether you were Yes or whether you were No, whether you were Leave or whether you were Remain, you have been equally impacted by this pandemic.

‘What people need at this time of national crisis is for politicians to focus on people for a change and not focus on themselves and their own obsessions.’

 

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