Alex Salmond Gets First Minister Odds Boost Amid New Party

Alex Salmond Gets First Minister Odds Boost Amid New Party
© PA

Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond is already enjoying a boost in the running to capture Holyrood once again after launching a new political party, Alba, this spring.

Salmond has split from the Scottish National Party after having once led them into an independence referendum that narrowly lost 55% to 45%.

Having been cleared of sexual assault charges last year, an inquiry by a cross-party committee of MSPs has since found the SNP mishandled the accusations at the time.

Current first minister Nicola Sturgeon has been cleared by the inquiry over concerns of a “potential breach” of the ministerial code – and is now set on ramping up the SNP’s campaigning ahead of May’s Scottish Parliament elections.

But the fractions exposed by Salmond’s split from the SNP and creation of a new party – the pro-independence Alba Party – threatens to derail Scotland’s current majority party.

Salmond Odds Cut Immediately

On March 26 Salmond launched the Alba Party, insisting the aim was to "build a supermajority for independence in the Scottish parliament” and not to threaten the SNP.

"The party's strategic aims are clear and unambiguous – to achieve a successful, socially just and environmentally responsible independent country," he said.

"We intend to contribute policy ideas to assist Scotland's economic recovery and to help build an independence platform to face the new political realities.”

His rhetoric suggested he is aware the SNP will likely dominate in the upcoming election, and that Alba would hope to attract votes from other parties, such as the Conservatives and Labour. But the reaction within politics betting markets to the announcement suggests something different.

Salmond’s price on becoming the next first minister in May dropped from 50/1 upon the launch of his party to 33/1 within hours. The shift exposed early confidence among politics betting sites that Salmond could spearhead something more than just a supplementary nationalist movement.

Instead, he may take votes away from the SNP.

Of course, the SNP remain heavy favourites to win the election at this early stage and even if Sturgeon were to step down, Edinburgh Central MSP candidate Angus Robertson is the 4/1 favourite to be the next first minister.

Can Salmond Make Grounds?

But this spring’s election campaigns are expected to kick up some changes to the markets. For a start, the SNP’s polling figures have been falling since last summer and hit 49% last month – still a big lead over the Conservatives and Labour, but as yet there is no data for how Alba could fare.

Another issue for Sturgeon’s party is over how many Salmond loyalists could now split from the main nationalist party and defect to the splinter group.

Alba’s main electoral pitch is likely to be that of championing independence while criticising the SNP for their failures to deliver it. That could stoke up tensions within Sturgeon’s party itself as supporters reflect on the successes and failures of the SNP since its first Holyrood majority a decade ago.

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