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by Andrew Learmonth
05 April 2021
Two former SNP provosts defect to Alex Salmond's Alba

Two former SNP provosts defect to Alex Salmond's Alba

Two former provosts have become the latest high profile SNP figures to defect to Alex Salmond’s Alba.

Hamish Vernal, the former provost of Aberdeenshire Council and Steve Cardownie, Edinburgh’s former deputy provost have both given their backing to the former first minister’s plan to create a pro-independence "supermajority".

The two men are the latest defections from the SNP.

MPs, Neale Hanvey and Kenny MacAskill, and a slew of sitting councillors have also crossed the floor. 

In a statement, Vernal called on the leadership of his former party to “lay off the negative personal attacks on Alba.” 

He added: “It will do you no good in the North East of Scotland." 

Last week Nicola Sturgeon said Salmond's project “hinders the cause of independence”.

She said: “When I listen to what is coming out of his new outfit, I fear that is more likely to drive the undecided former No voters that we need to attract away from the independence cause rather than to us.”

The First Minister added: “Any party that can attract the seal of approval of Nigel Farage sends alarm bells ringing in my head.”

In his statement, released on Monday morning, Vernal said: “We saw in 2016 that SNP votes were totally wasted in returning zero MSPs on the list locally allowing Tories to sneak in. There were over 137,000 SNP votes on the regional list which returned not a single MSP. If these votes go to Alba this time round we will return all four excellent Alba candidates.” Cardownie agree. He said the election was "vital".

"If Scotland is to move towards independence at this election we need to make the second list vote count by voting for Alba.”

This isn’t Cardownie’s first defection. He was elected a Labour councillor in 1988, before switching to the SNP in 2005. 

Salmond’s new party was given a boost over the weekend, when a new poll suggested they’d take six MSPs at the election. 

The Panelbase survey for the Sunday Times suggested the SNP would win 65 seats, while the Conservatives would win 24, Labour 20, the Greens 8, Alba 6, the Liberal Democrats 5, and George Galloway’s All for Unity 1.

Professor John Curtice said Panelbase's results were "good news" for Alba. However, the psephologist said a drop of just 2 per cent would see their tally would fall to one MSP.

The polling expert said: "Alba may be on the cusp of recording a creditable performance and coming away largely empty-handed.

"Although most of the seats the party could win with a 6 per cent tally look as though they would be secured at the expense of the unionist parties, our projection suggests that a couple might otherwise have been won by the SNP or the Greens.”

He said Alba was “appealing to a section of the nationalist movement that wants a rapid timetable for indyref2 and which still admires Salmond.”

Curtice added: "As many as 70 per cent of Alba supporters want a referendum within 12 months compared with 48 per cent of SNP list voters and 35 per cent of Green voters.

"While 93 per cent of those who back Alba believe that Salmond is 'a fit person to stand for election', only 13 per cent of SNP supporters and 15 per cent of Green voters take the same view.

"Salmond's personality has enabled him to create a new party out of nothing.

"However, it may now also constrain what the party can hope to achieve."

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