Alex Salmond claims he could have 'destroyed' Nicola Sturgeon's career

Dan Sanderson
·4-min read
Alex Salmond - Jane Barlow /PA
Alex Salmond - Jane Barlow /PA

Alex Salmond has claimed that he could have "destroyed" Nicola Sturgeon's political career if he had wanted to during their long-running feud over sexual harassment allegations against him.

The former First Minister told an American magazine that "if I wanted to destroy her, that could have been done".

The New Yorker reported that Mr Salmond, who has set up a rival party to the SNP and has repeatedly criticised the First Minister's independence strategy, chuckled for several seconds before making the remark.

Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon said that her political opponents - and potentially Mr Salmond himself - had attempted to "break her" during the controversy into whether she had broken the ministerial code over her dealings with her predecessor while a Scottish Government probe into complaints against him was ongoing.

Ms Sturgeon’s political career was in jeopardy after Mr Salmond publicly accused her allies, including her own husband, of conspiring to put him in jail.

He also claimed Ms Sturgeon misled parliament over when she became aware of the allegations against him.

The pair fell out in 2018 and Mr Salmond was cleared of all 13 sex assault charges at a trial last year. He launched the Alba Party, which is standing in this week’s Holyrood election, in late March.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I think my political opponents - I don’t know, maybe Alex himself... There was an element of 'we can break her,' you know? Almost kind of personally as well as politically. That was how it felt.

"And, you know, there were days when they might have come closer than they knew. But they didn’t."

She added: "Outside my mum and dad, and my husband now, he [Mr Salmond] has been the most influential and important person in my adult life. Somebody - I don’t want to use this term too loosely - but somebody that I loved, on a level."

Ms Sturgeon eventually survived the affair after she was cleared of breaking the ministerial code by an independent inquiry, even though the majority of members on a separate cross-party Holyrood committee found that she had misled parliament. Mr Salmond's claim to have been the victim of a conspiracy was not backed by either inquiry.

The article also quotes Andrew Wilson, a former SNP MSP who wrote Ms Sturgeon’s economic blueprint for independence, as saying Scotland would "clearly" have to choose between the EU and UK single markets if the country was to become independent.

Nicola Sturgeon  - Jeff J Mitchell /PA
Nicola Sturgeon - Jeff J Mitchell /PA

Ms Sturgeon has suggested in recent days that uninterrupted trade with England could continue if Scotland was to rejoin the EU, although she has struggled to explain how this could be achieved in practice.

In the latest split between Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon, he claimed that an independent Scotland should refuse to take on a share of UK debt if it becomes independent, but would still inherit British assets north of the border.

He praised the SNP leader as having "remarkable presentational skills" and "a good political brain", but claimed "the case for independence hasn’t advanced one iota since 2014", when she took over from him as First Minister.

In his latest salvo, Mr Salmond insisted that a new Scottish state should seek a "clean break" settlement from the UK that would mean it would start with a neutral balance sheet while leaving the British Government to service its debt of more than £2.2 trillion.

UK debt has risen dramatically over the last year in part due to emergency measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, such as the furlough scheme, which have supported hundreds of thousands of jobs in Scotland.

Ahead of the 2014 independence referendum, Mr Salmond had said that Scotland would negotiate a fair share of debt in the event of a Yes vote - a position Ms Sturgeon continues to advocate.

However, the Alba Party leader confirmed he had reversed his stance, in what will be seen as an attempt to appeal to hardcore nationalists days before the Scottish elections.

The policy, drawn up by Alba Party candidate and economist Jim Walker, argues that Scotland would still inherit all buildings and infrastructure based in Scotland, in exchange for waiving a claim to eight per cent of UK assets worldwide.

The party did not respond to a question about whether this would include military infrastructure at Scottish bases - such as Trident nuclear submarines based at Faslane or fighter jets at RAF Lossiemouth - or just the bases themselves.

Alba said as a "goodwill gesture" an independent Scotland would not seek compensation for economic damage caused by Brexit or "reparations" for historic oil and gas revenues.

Some opinion polls suggest that Mr Salmond may win a small number of seats in Thursday’s election, but others have suggested his new party may not win any. If he does secure a Holyrood seat, he has vowed to pile pressure on Ms Sturgeon to be more aggressive in her pursuit of independence.

Mr Salmond said: "Austerity and coronavirus has changed the economic world and changed it utterly. Thus the independence platform must adjust to the new realities. They bring with them many new challenges but also great economic opportunities.

"To do so we will need a refreshed independence platform."