Sturgeon: Salmond is asking people to 'gamble' on outcome of election
Nicola Sturgeon has said Alex Salmond is asking voters to "gamble" on the outcome of the election with the launch of the Alba Party.
The SNP leader said she didn't see the launch of Salmond's new party and his attempts to secure what he calls a "supermajority" for independence as a "friendly gesture".
Speaking on BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland, she said she hoped to hold a second independence referendum in the first half of the next parliament, providing Scotland had emerged from the "acute phase" of the pandemic.
Sturgeon said: “The most important thing of all is that we win a majority amongst the Scottish population for independence, and anybody who suggests there is a shortcut to that or that we can somehow game or trick our way to independence is, frankly, misleading people.
“It’s got to be through a process that’s not just legitimate, but seen to be legitimate so that it can command respect and authority at home and internationally."
Last week, Salmond announced his decision to stand for Holyrood, saying Alba would field list candidates in the hope of securing a majority of independence-supporting MSPs in the parliament.
But Sturgeon urged voters to back her own party in both the constituency and list vote.
She said: “I think he is seeking to ask people to gamble on the outcome of this election. I don’t think that is the right thing to do – if you want an SNP government, you’ve got to vote for an SNP government and there are many positive reasons to do so. I don’t think this is a friendly gesture on Mr Salmond’s part towards the SNP."
She added: “Everybody knew Alex Salmond was a gambler because he never made any secret of it. He backs the horses on an almost daily basis."
Asked if she was dragging her heels on independence, the SNP leader said: “The first priority for me, if I’m reelected as first minister, is to continue to lead the country through the COVID crisis.
“When we come out of that crisis then, yes, I do think the country should have a choice of independence so that decisions about our future lie here and not in the hands of Westminster governments led by politicians like Boris Johnson.
“I can’t give you a fixed date for when COVID will be over. If we are out of the COVID crisis, then I would want to see an independence referendum be in the first half of this parliament because as we recover from COVID, it’s really important we have the powers and decision-making processes here in Scotland to ensure we have the kind of recovery the majority want."
Responding to Sturgeon's comments about a second independence referendum, Tory leader Douglas Ross said: “This is the clearest sign yet that the SNP will put another referendum before Scotland’s recovery.
“Nicola Sturgeon talks of Alex Salmond being a betting man but she’s willing to gamble Scotland’s recovery on a reckless plan to break up the country."
He added: “The SNP’s obsession with independence is clouding her judgement. The last thing Scotland needs is more uncertainty and a new constitutional crisis on top of the health and economic crisis we’re facing."
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “The COVID crisis will not end the day lockdown ends or when we finally defeat the virus.
“Alongside the tragic death toll, we have taken an economic hit harder and deeper than the banking crisis.
“I’m afraid Nicola Sturgeon has a blind spot when it comes to the constitution. Holding a referendum during the recovery would be irresponsible.
“I want us to focus on what unites us a country, not what divides us. This election must be about our national recovery, not going back to the old arguments.”