Alex Salmond will write to Ofcom and Scottish broadcasters to demand his new Alba party – which he claims can secure a pro-independence super-majority at next month’s Holyrood elections – be included in televised leadership debates.
Raising the prospect of the former SNP leader going head to head with the current leader, Nicola Sturgeon, just weeks after denouncing her government as “failing” and accusing those close to her of trying to put him in prison, Salmond told a press briefing: “We are a national party putting up a serious challenge and can argue that we’ve got a significant following already and are going to get much more if we’re given a fair shout in the television debates.”
Sturgeon has said repeatedly since Salmond launched Alba last Friday, and announced his intention to stand himself as an MSP on the north-east regional list, that there are “significant questions” about the appropriateness of his return to public office given concerns raised about his conduct.
Salmond launched the party with the express strategy of winning a super-majority for independence. He has suggested his plan is complementary to the SNP, which has been predicted to win its own simple majority in a number of recent polls. Sturgeon said earlier on Thursday that the new political enterprise was “not a friendly gesture”.
Salmond said that Alba’s presence would bring something “distinctive” to broadcast coverage for the forthcoming Scottish parliament elections on 6 May. “If independence is, and it should be, a dominating issue in this election campaign it seems to me there should be parity of those arguing for independence and against.”
Both BBC Scotland and STV responded that their election coverage would be in line with Ofcom guidance.
Salmond was also asked whether he had concerns that the continued focus on his conduct towards women – he has described himself as “no angel” and behaved in a way deemed “inappropriate” and “touchy-feely” by his own defence lawyer during his criminal trial, after which he was acquitted on all charges – might detract from Alba’s campaign. He pointed to the party’s candidate list, which includes a number of women who have been outspoken critics of transgender law reform, as being “dominated by some of the most formidable feminist campaigners in Scotland”.
He said that Alba’s stance on the EU would be announced later this week, after the former Ukip and Brexit party leader Nigel Farage told the Times that Salmond could deliver a breakthrough for independence by appealing to Scottish leave voters.
Earlier on Thursday, Sturgeon said that Salmond was misleading voters by suggesting the country could “trick our way to independence”, as she again described her predecessor’s new party as an attempt to game the Holyrood voting system.
The SNP leader told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “The only way to make sure you get the government you want is to vote for the party that will be that government. Anything else is trying to gamble with the system, game the system, take a chance on the outcome of the election.”
Salmond has argued that, while the SNP is expected to win the majority of constituency seats, it is a “waste” voting for them on the regional list system, which is designed to make the seat distribution more representative of the overall vote. Alba is only standing candidates on the regional lists.
But Sturgeon said: “There are two things that are required to win independence: firstly a simple majority in the Scottish parliament that can bring about an independence referendum and then, crucially, the most important thing of all, is that we win a majority amongst the Scottish population for independence. And anyone who tries to suggest there is a shortcut to that or that we can somehow game or trick our way to independence is, frankly, misleading people.”