By Bill Heaney
The Scottish Election on May 6 took a dramatic turn today when Alex Salmond, the former First Minister, launched a new political party to take on his bete noir Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP and all the other parties, the Conservatives, Labour, Green and Independents.
Ms Sturgeon must have thought she had outfoxed Mr Salmond and all the other political parties together by announcing yesterday, with just hours to go before purdah was declared, a four per cent pay rise for NHS Agenda For Change staff, which numbers 154,000 people from nurses through to hospital cleaners and kitchen personnel.
It was widely believed this would have secured her position as First Minister and that the SNP, who have been in government for 14 years, would remain Scotland’s principal political party.
However, Mr Salmond, the man the First Minister admits taught her (almost) everything she knows about politics when he was her mentor and she was his deputy looks to have put the skids under her with the launch of the ALBA party which will campaign for Scottish independence.
Only, it is expected, with a lot more vim and vigour than the SNP has so far.
The Salmond announcement is a sore one for the SNP and will cause them as much pain as a thistle up their kilt.
What is will do in Dumbarton Constituency, which comprises Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond, is difficult to predict since our MSP, Jackie Baillie, is deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party and their health spokesperson to boot, has a majority of only 109 votes.
It goes without saying that the ALBA party will split the SNP vote and leave their candidate Toni Giuliani, a close associate of Ms Sturgeon, lagging behind Ms Baillie, but the big question here is how many votes will ALBA take from Labour, who are expected to make a statement soon.
Responding to the announcement from Alex Salmond that he will stand for the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign chair Alistair Carmichael MP said: “There are no questions about Scotland’s future to which Alex Salmond is the answer.
“This astonishing announcement shows just how divided the SNP are. A few years ago no one could have imagined that the former First Minister and his protege would be at one another’s throats.
“It shows the arrogance of the nationalists that they want to use the Scottish Parliament as an arena to fight their own feuds instead of being a forum to put recovery first and to make life better for the people of Scotland”
“This case isn’t about a plot or political conspiracy,” M r Prentice told them. “This is about a powerful man who abused his power to satisfy his sexual desires with impunity.”
Summing up after nearly nine days of evidence, Prentice invited the jury of nine women and six men to convict Salmond of one charge of attempted rape, an intent to rape, nine charges of sexual assault and two of indecent assault – charges that Salmond denies.
Earlier this week, James Hamilton QC., reported that Ms Sturgeon had not deliberately misled the Scottish Parliament, an offence of which had she been found guilty would have compelled her to resign her position.
A vote of No Confidence in the First Minister moved by the Conservatives was defeated by a wide margin in the Holyrood chamber.
Speculation was widespread tonight as to who would be the first SNP public figure to jump ship following the announcement from Alex Salmond.
The first name on pundits’ lips was Joanna Cherry QC who was axed from the SNP’s Westminster frontbench earlier this year amid Ms Sturgeon’s crisis with Alex Salmond.
Ms Cherry, pictured left, claimed she was dismissed as a result of a “witch hunt” following the party’s revision of the Gender Recognition Act.
It came as a shock since Ms Cherry was considered an indispensable member of the party, having sat in Westminster since 2015.
Known to be an ally of Mr Salmond, many now speculate whether she could swap teams and join his Alba Party which was launched today, the day after she called off sick from her constituency duties, which will be handled by her staff.
Ms Cherry has previously floated her attraction to holding a leading role in Scottish politics.
She spoke to Holyrood magazine in 2019, criticising a “minority” of SNP activists who support plans to reform the GRA, accusing them of shutting down debate by labelling feminists “transphobes” for “sticking up for women”.
When asked about her leadership ambitions, Ms Cherry said: “I’d love to play a leadership role in a future independent Scotland, but leadership doesn’t necessarily mean being the leader of the party or being the First Minister.”
The SNP’s candidate for Dumbarton constituency, Toni Giuliani, with First Minister Sturgeon.