BOXER Alex Arthur is to stand for Alex Salmond’s new Alba Party at the Holyrood election.

The former Commonwealth Gold medallist and former WBO champion,  now a media commentator and coach to young athletes, will stand in the Lothian regional list. 

The 42-year-old said: “Commenting on joining the Alba Party Alex Arthur said: “I have had the rare privilege of winning a gold medal for Scotland before reaching the top of the world in my professional career.

"I backed the Yes campaign in 2014 and I am joining the Alba Party as a candidate to help deliver a Super Majority for independence in the Scottish Parliament.”

“Standing on the podium in front of a Scottish Saltire was one of the proudest moments of my life. If a super featherweight world champion can help deliver a supermajority, I can’t sit on the sidelines.”

“A supermajority for Independence will energise our country, and I am proof that with hard work, inspiration and opportunity, people from across Scotland can achieve amazing things.

“As part of a supermajority of MSPs delivering Scottish independence, I will bring to the Parliament a focus on sport in our working-class communities to ensure that in the recovery from the Coronavirus no young person is left behind."

The announcement comes ahead of Nicola Sturgeon taking part in her first TV leaders’ debate of the campaign tomorrow.

The First Minister will be part of a five-way debate hosted by the BBC’s Sarah Smith,

Mr Salmond is not taking part, but is likely to overshadow the proceedings regardless.

Earlier today, Alba also announced another defection from the SNP, with Glasgow Shettleston councillor Michelle Ferns switching sides.

The party claimed Ms Ferns had been a central figure in settling the authority’s £500m equal pay case with its female staff, but the union organiser behind the deal disputed this.

The GMB’s Rhea Wolfson said Cllr Ferns was "not involved in the slightest- not in settlement negotiations, not in the chamber, not industrially, not in meetings with the Administration".

Cllr Ferns’s defection was the first on the SNP-run authority, and followed the defection of other SNP councillors in Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire.

Former SNP MPs Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey and former national office bearers Lynn Anderson and Women’s convener Caroline McAllister have also switched.

Cllr Ferns’s switch was announced just hours before Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to the SNP’s campaign conference in Glasgow.

In it, the First Minister appeared to take a coded swipe at Mr Salmond and Alba.

She said the experience of the pandemic had made her reflect on what mattered in life, and she now had little time for “the ‘'who’s up/who’s down’ approach to politics”.

She said: “And I definitely have much less patience for those who treat politics like a game - and for indulging anyone who puts self interest ahead of the country’s best interests.

“If the last year has taught us anything it’s that politics is about improving people’s lives or it is about nothing at all.”

Mr Salmond launched his comeback vehicle last week with the aim of electing Yes MSPs through the Holyrood list in May to create a “supermajority” for independence.

In an interview in a Sunday newspaper, Mr Sturgeon said Mr Salmond’s ego was in charge, and he ought to quit the public stage given his past inappropriate behaviour with women.

Mr Salmond has urged his supporters back the SNP in constituencies and Alba on the list.

However Ms Sturgeon made it clear in her speech she wanted both kinds of vote, and suggested only that would give her the mandate to bring about independence.

She concluded today: “My message in this vital election - given the times we are living through, perhaps the most important election in our country’s history - is this:

“For the strong, experienced leadership that the country needs at this time of crisis;

“For a bold, progressive, ambitious policy programme to kickstart our recovery from Covid;

“And to secure the right to choose our independence;

“Vote to re-elect me as your First Minister and the SNP as your government.

“Give us the mandate we need to get things done.

“I am asking you to cast both votes for the SNP on May 6th.

“And, together, let’s get on with the job of building a country to be proud of.”