Alex Salmond’s journey to fronting new pro-independence Alba Party
Alex Salmond has announced his return to Scottish politics as leader of the newly-formed Alba Party, six weeks before the Holyrood election on May 6.
The former first minister was born in Linlithgow, West Lothian, and attended the town’s Linlithgow Academy before going on to study at St Andrews University where he joined the SNP in 1973.
He first become SNP leader in 1990 and stayed in the role for 10 years, during which time the devolved Scottish Parliament was established.
Already the MP for Banff and Buchan, Mr Salmond went on to win the corresponding seat in the first Holyrood election in 1999, and his SNP group formed the main opposition to the Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition.
He stood down as SNP leader in 2000 but returned to the post four years later – despite having initially refused to put himself forward – on a joint ticket with Nicola Sturgeon as candidate for depute leader.
The pair were duly elected and three years later took the party to power at Holyrood, with 47 MSPs to Labour’s 46.
A spell in minority government followed, but in 2011 the SNP went on to win 69 of the 129 seats in the Parliament – the most any party has ever won and giving them an overall majority.
The 2014 independence campaign arguably marked a high point in Mr Salmond’s political career, but the overall No result also sparked his resignation as SNP leader for the second time and ended his tenure as Scotland’s longest-serving first minister after seven years.
He remained on the Holyrood backbenches and returned to Westminster in the 2015 general election, winning the Gordon constituency as the party – now led by Ms Sturgeon – won 56 of the 59 seats up for grabs in Scotland
Mr Salmond stood down from Holyrood the following year and lost his Westminster seat in 2017 as Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives enjoyed a number of big wins in the snap general election.
After being ousted as an MP he went on to host a sell-out chat show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, although faced controversy when he took the Alex Salmond Show to television on Russian state-backed channel RT.
But in 2018 female staff members made formal complaints to the Scottish Government about Mr Salmond’s conduct in December 2013 when he was first minister.
An internal investigation was established and Mr Salmond lodged a petition for a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh – the Scottish Government conceded defeat a week before it was due to start.
Mr Salmond then resigned from the SNP – but made clear his “absolute intention” to rejoin it “just as soon as I have had the opportunity to clear my name”.
He was arrested in January 2019 and denied the charges just days after MSPs agreed to hold an inquiry at Holyrood into the Government’s handling of the complaints against him.
Among the issues raised – which caused contention for several weeks – was a meeting between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, which the First Minister says she forgot about.
The criminal trial started at the High Court in Edinburgh in March 2020 and on the day Scotland was put into lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, he was acquitted of all 12 charges.
Witnesses began appearing before the Holyrood committee in September, with Mr Salmond eventually giving evidence in February 2021.
In his evidence, he told MSPs that Scotland’s “leadership has failed” and called for the Lord Advocate and head of Scotland’s civil service, Leslie Evans, to resign.
Ms Sturgeon also gave evidence to the committee and said Mr Salmond’s claims of a plot against him were “absurd”, and she insisted her Government had nothing to hide.
The committee concluded she misled Parliament but James Hamilton QC cleared the First Minister of breaching the ministerial code in his own independent investigation.
On Wednesday this week, Mr Salmond announced plans to take legal action over the “conduct” of Ms Evans.
Two days later, he confirmed he will stand in the North East region and lead the Alba Party in May’s election.