‘Nightmare’ threat of Sturgeon and Salmond pact to break up UK branded ‘grotesque’

Salmond would be 'more radical than Sturgeon' says expert

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The Alba Party leader claimed separation talks should start within days of next month’s Holyrood election and voters would “expect” their professional relationship to resume. Opponents condemned the “nightmare” prospect of the former SNP colleagues reaching a deal on his “grotesque” demands as Scotland battles back from the coronavirus pandemic. Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross warned “the reckless Nationalist obsession” had again been exposed.

It came after Mr Salmond took a fresh swipe at the First Minister’s 11-point “roadmap” to stage a second referendum in the first half of a new parliamentary term.

The pair have not spoken since mid-2018, when they fell out over the Scottish Government’s unlawful handling of sexual harassment complaints against him.

Mr Salmond was also cleared of 13 counts of sexual assault at the High Court last year but did admit inappropriate conduct.

Ms Sturgeon last week said she had “categorically” ruled out working with him following his sensational bid to return to frontline politics.

But Mr Salmond insisted Ms Sturgeon “would follow the guidance of the people” if returned to Holyrood as part of a pro-independence “supermajority”.

Mr Salmond said: “I expect all politicians, Nicola included, to accept the verdict of the people and to work with the parliament that people give us.

“We are at a stage in Scotland where we have to leave the personal behind.”

Under his plans, negotiations would start on the first day of the new parliamentary term next month.

He set out his own route map to independence on the 701st anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, asserting independence.

Mr Salmond read out an updated version of the document which also included the original phrase “we are fighting but for liberty”.

He also claimed a rerun of the 2014 poll may not be needed to achieve his goal.

Mr Salmond said a “supermajority” of nationalists MSPs would issue a “clear and unmistakable instruction” to Ms Sturgeon’s government to open immediate talks with Whitehall on secession.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Mr Salmond claimed there should be a cross-party “standing independence convention” to back-up the “negotiating position.”

Launching his party’s election campaign in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, he also said the tactics could be decided later.

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But a 2014-style referendum conducted with the UK Government’s consent was only one of the options available, he said.

Mr Salmond claimed other options were another form of plebiscite, legal action, or “peaceful and popular demonstration”.

Boris Johnson has ruled out transferring power to Holyrood to hold a second referendum while he is in office.

But Mr Salmond claimed the Prime Minister’s resistance would “crumble” if enough separatist MSPs were returned.

SNP plans published earlier this year say the party will push ahead with arranging a vote regardless of Mr Johnson’s veto – and force the UK Government to challenge its legality in court.

But in a swipe at the strategy Mr Salmond said it “may have 10 points too many” and argued the SNP should not “pigeonhole” itself to a referendum.

Refusing to be drawn on the process that would be used to leave the UK, Mr Salmond said: “The tactics will inevitably evolve with the negotiations but the strategy is to make the achievement of independence a real and overriding priority.”

He also refused to say what would constitute a “supermajority” or what he would do if Ms Sturgeon refused to work with him.

The 2016 Scotland Act defines this as two-thirds of MSPs, meaning 86 of the 129 at Holyrood, needed to pass certain legislation.

However, Mr Salmond said: “That is not the definition of supermajority that we are using.”

A bombshell poll at the weekend put Alba on course for six percent of the vote share, which would give them six MSPs, with the SNP on course for 65 seats and the Greens eight.

This would mean 79 separatist MSPs but Mr Salmond said he believed as many as 90 could be returned to Holyrood – putting Mr Johnson in a “fundamentally weaker position”.

Responding to criticism that his plan was “reckless” and “grotesque” while the country battles Covid, Mr Salmond claimed he was “bringing forward ideas” to deal with the “economic tsunami”.

But Conservative leader Mr Ross said: “Senior SNP figures have said a referendum could take place this year while Salmond suggests the process should begin immediately after the election.

“The toxic Salmond-Sturgeon psychodrama endangers Scotland’s future and only the Scottish Conservatives have the strength and determination to beat the Nationalists and ensure we instead focus on the issues that matter to people.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie branded Mr Salmond’s demands “an insult to all those jobs and livelihoods that are still at risk.”

She said: “Nicola Sturgeon cannot endorse this extreme approach to the constitution and needs to be clear that she will not bulldoze this through the parliament with an ugly allegiance with Salmond’s Alba Party.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, added: “The idea of governments starting complex and protracted constitutional negotiations in the midst of an ongoing national emergency is grotesque.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “This so-called ‘plan’ is not in any way credible.

“Arguing on the one hand that Westminster will not agree to a referendum even if there is a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, but on the other hand that it will agree to negotiate independence without a referendum, doesn’t pass even the most basic credibility test.

“This kind of nonsense will only make winning independence harder.”

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