Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Former First Minister and leader of the Alba Party Alex Salmond campaigns at Stirling Castle on April 13, 2021 in Stirling, Scotland.

JEFF J MITCHELL/Getty Images

He’s one of the most controversial figures in British politics and almost led Scotland out of the United Kingdom in 2014. And now Alex Salmond is back, leading a new political party and champing at the bit for a second shot at sovereignty.

“This is the moment,” Mr. Salmond said in an interview Wednesday during a break in campaigning for the May 6 Scottish election. “The biggest danger for independence is not taking this moment.”

Mr. Salmond, 66, has been fighting for Scottish independence for more than 40 years. He led the Scottish National Party to power in 2007 but resigned as party leader and Scotland’s First Minister in 2014 after the Yes side lost a referendum on independence by 45 per cent to 55 per cent.

Story continues below advertisement

Now, with polls showing support for independence hovering around 50 per cent, he has leapt back into the political fray and launched a new nationalist party called Alba – the Scottish Gaelic word for Scotland. He knows Alba has no chance of winning power next month, but he’s hoping the party can eke out enough seats to play a role in forcing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to agree to a fresh vote on sovereignty.

“This is an era of political change,” he said after invoking the names of great Scottish warriors William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. “Catch that mood and you’ve got a big chance of winning.”

Mr. Salmond is facing a daunting challenge. Alba is barely registering in most opinion polls, and he has become a divisive figure in the independence movement.

Since leaving office he’s been dogged by a string of controversies – including launching a show on the Kremlin-backed RT television network – and a lengthy criminal case involving allegations of sexual assault. That has made him a pariah to many SNP members, including Nicola Sturgeon, his onetime deputy who took over as party leader and First Minister in 2014.

Mr. Salmond was acquitted of the charges last year, but he sparked a parliamentary inquiry after alleging that Ms. Sturgeon and other government officials conspired to ruin his reputation and “put him in jail.” Ms. Sturgeon rejected the charge and was cleared by a majority of the committee, but the animosity on both sides has intensified.

Ms. Sturgeon, 50, has said she won’t work with Mr. Salmond if he’s elected. “He seems unable to acknowledge [that] the kind of behaviour he conceded during his criminal trial – where he was acquitted of criminality – was inappropriate,” she said recently. “This presents a pretty big barrier to me ever having any kind of dealings with him.”

Mr. Salmond shot back by criticizing Ms. Sturgeon’s record in office and accusing her of being weak on independence. “I think she’s far too timid on the independence question,” he said Wednesday. “This is the time for independent, adventurous new thinking, and there are tens of thousands of people in Scotland waiting to be led in that direction.”

Story continues below advertisement

Polls show the SNP is on track to regain power, but Mr. Salmond is counting on Scotland’s unique electoral system to deliver Alba enough seats to be a thorn in Ms. Sturgeon’s side.

Each voter in Scotland casts two ballots – one for a constituency member of the Scottish Parliament, who is elected through the traditional first-past-the-post system, and another one for regional MSPs, who are allocated according to how each party performs. There are 73 riding MSPs and 56 regional MSPs – seven in each of eight regions.

In the past few elections, the SNP has won a majority of the 73 constituency seats, but voters have opted for other parties at the regional level. That has prevented the SNP from winning an outright majority in the legislature, and Ms. Sturgeon has governed with the support of the Green Party, which also backs independence.

Mr. Salmond is hoping that if Alba can win a handful of seats in the regional ballot – it isn’t contesting any riding seats – it would give the legislature a strong majority of pro-independence MSPs. “Together the SNP and Greens and Alba could have 80 or 90 MSPs out of 129,” he said.

If Alba does enter the legislature, Mr. Salmond has vowed to immediately call for Scotland to begin negotiations with Britain on sovereignty that would include a referendum. If Mr. Johnson refuses to engage, Mr. Salmond said the Scottish government should hold its own referendum and sue Britain in international courts. He added that Alba is already working on a constitution for the new country.

Ms. Sturgeon has dismissed Mr. Salmond’s tactics as impractical and said Alba is causing confusion among independence supporters. She wants a referendum some time before the end of 2023, after the pandemic has faded.

Story continues below advertisement

Ailsa Henderson, a professor of political science at the University of Edinburgh, said most polls indicate Alba will struggle to win seats. However, she said Mr. Salmond’s presence in the campaign has affected the debate around independence. “It does appear that [Alba] are representing a view within the independence movement that is impatient,” Dr. Henderson said. “To the extent that they are likely to have an impact, it could be on changing what the SNP claims it will do or how it might approach things if they win the election.”

Mr. Salmond laughed off the polls and said it’s time to finally decide Scotland’s future in a referendum. “You say to people: ‘Let’s put it to the touch, to win or lose it all.’ ”

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies