ALEX Salmond has criticised the SNP’s independence strategy – warning that “pigeon-holing yourself into one route and one timescale” plays into the hands of Boris Johnson.

The former first minister was speaking to journalists and bloggers after his Alba Party announced its candidates to contest the list ballot at May’s Holyrood election in a bid to produce a “supermajority” in favour of independence.

Mr Salmond was asked his view on when a second referendum should take place if the Scottish Parliament does return a majority of MSPs in favour of independence.

The current make-up of Holyrood is a pro-independence majority, made up by SNP and Scottish Greens MSPs.

At Tuesday's election leaders' debate, Nicola Sturgeon said a referendum should be held in the first half of the next parliamentary term, dependent on the Covid-19 pandemic being resolved. 

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Mr Salmond said that the Alba Party’s position is that “the Scottish Parliament should be consulted and should give a direction to the Scottish Government to begin independence negotiations with the UK Government”.

He added that “as part of these independence negotiations” between Holyrood and Westminster, “the UK Government might wish to put down stipulations” for a referendum to be held or a consultation to take place in order to “assure themselves that independence is the decided wish of the Scottish people".

The former first minister appears to be at odds with the SNP’s strategy to force the Prime Minister to agree to a second referendum.

The SNP believes a majority in May’s election will give them a mandate for an independence vote and if Mr Johnson continues to ignore their pleas for a re-run of the 2014 poll, the party will legislate for Holyrood to hold its own referendum which is likely to lead to a legal battle.

But Mr Salmond said: “I don’t think you should tell, in advance, your negotiating opponent, what exactly you’re going to do and the timescale you intend to do it on.

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“I think you should begin negotiations and these negotiations have an infinitely higher chance of succeeding if the First Minister has a substantial independence majority in the Parliament than they would have if she’s in a precarious parliamentary position with regard to independence.

“Pigeon-holing yourself into one route and one timescale I think has limitations over the advantages of taking the substantial independence supermajority in the parliament and taking direction in that and including the parliament instead of a single party in the drive to independence in Scotland.”

Mr Salmond rubbished accusations his party is “gaming” the Holyrood electoral system by attempting to create a “supermajority” of indy-backing MSPs, despite not necessarily being the will of the public.

He said: “I don’t really understand the argument about gaming the system as it’s called.

“Everybody has an equal opportunity to stand for election under this system.”

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Mr Salmond added: “I think most people would say it’s more democratic, more participative, more inclusive than say a first past the post system where Boris Johnson can become a Tory Prime Minister on 40% of the vote with a 100 majority. Is he gaming that system? He probably is.

“That’s no different form the Green party, which only stands in a handful of constituency seats around Scotland. The difference is that we argue our commitment to Scottish independence is absolute, people know that and people who wish to see Scottish independence and the Scottish supermajority will vote Alba in the regional list.”

Mr Salmond said “there’s a range of measures that could be taken” if the Prime Minister is “foolish enough to try and deny the sovereign rights of the Scottish people” by refusing a second referendum to take place.

He said one option would be “a plebiscite organised by the parliaments”, as well as exploring legal action.

Mr Salmond added: “You would mobilise popular opinion in Scotland including peaceful demonstrations which is an entirely legitimate part of politics.”