Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond has appealed to his successor to “put aside personal differences” and work with him again towards the “noble cause” of Scottish independence.
The former SNP leader insisted that if a “supermajority” for independence could be achieved in May’s Holyrood election with the help of his new Alba Party, it could change the balance of power between Scotland and Westminster.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has consistently refused current First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s calls for a second Scottish independence referendum.
But Mr Salmond said that if a “supermajority” of pro-independence MSPs are elected to Holyrood, a range of options would be available to those who want to take Scotland out of the UK.
He suggested Scotland could organise its own referendum in those circumstances, with other options including legal action against the UK Government over its refusal to allow such a ballot.
Mr Salmond – who was unveiled as the leader of the new Alba Party on Friday – appealed to Ms Sturgeon to work with him in pursuit of their shared goal.
Speaking on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, he said: “The cause of independence is much, much bigger than personalities.
“It is a noble cause, a huge cause for Scotland, and everybody has to put aside personal differences and work for that national interest.”
But his plea comes just over a month after he attacked Ms Sturgeon and her administration when giving evidence to the Holyrood committee probing the Scottish Government’s mishandling of harassment allegations against him.
Mr Salmond told MSPs then that Scotland’s “leadership has failed”, as he said he had “no doubt” Ms Sturgeon had broken the ministerial code – something an independent inquiry later cleared her of.
Speaking about those allegations, Mr Salmond said: “Everybody in politics has to take criticism from time to time.
“I’m talking about the cause of advancing Scotland’s case for independence.”
Mr Salmond, who was acquitted last year of 13 charges of sexual assault, insisted “most fair minded people” will respect the verdict of the jury in the case against him.
He added: “Scotland, I am certain, wants to move on from this and start talking about politics and particularly how we can advance the most noble cause of all – and that is the cause of Scottish independence.”
He insisted a “supermajority” of MSPs in favour of independence would “strengthen immeasurably Scotland’s hand in negotiating with a Tory Prime Minister”.
He added: “If Boris Johnson casts this argument about independence as merely the Prime Minister against the First Minister, the Tories against the SNP, then he will likely continue to say no to Scotland.
“If that is against the Parliament and the people, then it changes the power balance considerably, hence the importance of a supermajority.”
He recalled that after the 2011 election, when the SNP under his leadership won an overall majority at Holyrood, it “became much easier” to negotiate for an independence referendum to be held.
Mr Salmond continued: “A supermajority in the Parliament, that is composed of not just one party, the SNP, but other independence parties like Alba, will change that power balance considerably.
“Because no Tory Prime Minister wants to be trying to face down an entire Parliament and an entire people. That would be a very, very difficult position for Boris Johnson.”