Stephen Daisley Stephen Daisley

Salmond’s return is a headache for Sturgeon

Andy Buchanan - Pool/Getty Images

When he was acquitted on sexual assault charges at the High Court in Edinburgh last March, I predicted: ‘Alex Salmond is back from the dead and he will have his revenge’. The past 12 months has seen a relentless onslaught against Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP establishment and anyone who thought that would culminate in the equivocal findings of two inquiries (one clearing Sturgeon, the other damning her) will have been disabused this afternoon.

Salmond has announced his return to politics in time for May’s Holyrood elections, under the banner of an outfit calling itself the Alba Party. The party will stand only on the regional list and is pitching itself as an effort to help secure an ‘independence supermajority’. Salmond himself will stand in the North East of Scotland. The SNP didn’t win any list seats there last time. (The list balances out first past the post seats and the Nationalists won nine of the 10 constituencies.) There were, however, almost 140,000 list votes for the SNP in the region (45 per cent of the total), and Salmond will be gunning for as big a chunk of that vote as possible.

The list system makes it very difficult for minor and new-start parties to break into parliament. There is an effective threshold in each region of around five per cent. In the last election, no minor parties got even close to that in any region and, indeed, the combined vote of all 11 minor parties (plus all independents) amounted to just 4.5 per cent Scotland-wide. Salmond might be able to beat the system on the strength of name recognition and local ties. He lives in the North East and represented the area in a succession of seats (Holyrood and Westminster) for 30 years.

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