Former SNP leader Alex Salmond has shocked Scottish politics by announcing that he is setting up a new party to contest the country’s parliamentary election in May.
Salmond’s Alba Party will field at least four candidates in the election’s regional list vote and push for Scottish independence - much like his former party, the SNP.
Scotland uses the Additional Member System (AMS) for its parliamentary elections, meaning each voter gets two votes - one for a constituency representative and one to elect additional members on a regional level.
The additional members are meant to make the overall result more representative than a traditional first-past-the-post vote, with voters picking a party rather than a candidate for the regional vote.
Salmond claimed on Friday that his new party would not aim to take votes off the SNP as it would only stand candidates for the regional additional members vote.
“The Alba Party is a list party, we are standing only in the list. We are not challenging the SNP in the constituencies.
“Indeed we are saying vote SNP or for an independence party on the constituency section. We are giving that support.”
In 2016, the SNP won just four seats from the regional additional members vote, while it won 59 seats in the constituency section.
This is because the regional vote is designed to give representation to parties that receive a significant number of votes but do not gain a lot of seats in the constituency section, as BBC Newsnight’s Lewis Goodall explained below:
D'Hondt works like this.
It allocates regional seats to parties according to the number of regional votes cast fo… https://t.co/xjmOxeBFTT
In theory, Salmond’s new project could help his former party by adding more pro-independence MSPs to the Scottish parliament.
However, the move comes amid tension in the relationship between Salmond and the SNP, after he announced plans to take legal action against the Scottish government’s top civil servant in relation to the handling of harassment complaints against him.
The SNP’s response to the announcement certainly didn’t view it as positive news:
It is very unclear at the moment whether the Alba Party will be able to do anything to help Scottish independence but it doesn’t seem like that there will be many voters who will welcome Salmond’s return, judging by his most recent approval ratings from YouGov:
% with a favourable view of...
All Scots - 14%
SNP voters - 15%
All Scots - 57%