Alex Salmond would have been “wanting and expecting” a larger number of politicians to defect to his new party from the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon has claimed.
The former Scottish first minister made a dramatic return to frontline politics a week ago, when he was unveiled as the leader of the new pro-independence Alba Party.
More than 4,000 members have joined Alex Salmond’s Alba Party in the week since its launch, the party has said.
That includes two MPs who were elected under an SNP banner, the former Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, and Neale Hanvey.
Speaking about the defections, Ms Sturgeon said: “I suspect, knowing him as I used to, Alex Salmond would have been wanting and expecting a bigger defection of elected representatives from the SNP to his new party.”
She added: “Kenny (MacAskill) has obviously not been that comfortable in the SNP for sometime, so he has made his decisions, and he is entitled to make that decision.”
Speaking about Mr Hanvey, the SNP leader stated: “I don’t know Neale obviously as well as I know Kenny. My principal experience of Neale during the 2019 election was having to suspend him from SNP membership because of anti-Semitic comments.”
She stressed that while individuals “make up their own minds on what party, if any party, they want to be members of”, she also questioned if there was a “duty” for parliamentarians who switch allegiance to put themselves forward for re-election as part of their new party.
Such politicians “maybe have a duty to allow the voters to decide”, she stated.
Her comments came as Alba Party founder Laurie Flynn said membership had now passed 4,100 – claiming this gave the new group more members than the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
The assertion is based on a listing of the party’s membership on its Wikipedia page, which shows numbers at 4,085 as of December 2018.
He said: “Little did I think when I founded the party the impact that it would have.
“After exactly one week since our public launch, our membership has surged past that of the Liberal Democrats, a party which has been in existence for 150 years.”
The Liberal Democrats were formed in the 1980s following a partnership between the Liberal and Social Democratic parties.
He added that Alba was “Scotland’s new political force”.
However, a Survation poll released on Thursday put the party at just 3% support with the more than 1,000 respondents.
The survey, for newspaper publisher DC Thomson, also found that more than half of those asked believed Mr Salmond was detrimental to the cause of independence.
On Thursday, the former first minister said his party’s membership figures are one of the reasons why it should be permitted into the leaders’ debates, and refused to rule out taking legal action if Alba was not invited.
Ms Sturgeon said however that she did not believe Alba met the conditions for being part of the TV showdowns.
She told journalists: “I don’t get to decide who is in television debates, and nor should I.
“It’s not my decision, and I will be there in TV debates, representing the SNP.”
She added: “Looking at it objectively in terms of the conditions, I understand that have to be met, I can’t see that his party meets those conditions, but that is a matter for the broadcasters and for Ofcom.”