TWO former provosts have defected from the SNP to the Alba Party – with one warning their former party's leadership to “lay off the negative personal attacks”.

Hamish Vernal, the former provost of Aberdeenshire Council and Edinburgh’s former deputy provost have publicly backed Alex Salmond’s new party ahead of May’s Holyrood election.

The news is a further boost for the Alba Party, which has seen two sitting MPs and a string of high-profile councillors leave the SNP to join Mr Salmond’s new project.

Alba was handed another boost over the weekend with a Sunday Times poll suggesting the party could win six seats at May’s election, but its success appears to be on a knife-edge, according to the poll.

Mr Cardownie started off as a Labour councillor, elected to Edinburgh City Council in 1988, before defecting to the SNP in 2005 and leading the party in two coalitions before standing down at the 2017 council elections.

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Mr Cardownie said: “This is a vital Election for Edinburgh and Scotland.

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

“The fact is that an SNP vote while necessary in the constituency is a wasted vote on the list which hands seats to the pro-Union parties as we found in 2016 when the SNP got nearly 120,000 votes across Lothian and no seats.

“This time it has to be Alba for the list to ensure a greater number of independence supporting MSPs are returned to the Scottish Parliament.”

Mr Vernal has called on his former SNP colleagues to stop any personal attacks on his new party.

He said: “With Alex Salmond heading up the Alba candidates for the North East, I am delighted to be giving my support to Alba on the second vote for the regional list.

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“I have been an SNP member since I was 16 years old so it is a considerable wrench to leave the party. However, the opportunity of building a supermajority for independence is too good to miss.

“My message to SNP voters is - give your list vote to Alba and make both votes count for Yes to Independence.

“My message to the SNP leadership is lay off the negative personal attacks on Alba. It will do you no good in the North East of Scotland.”

Mr Vernal added: “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.

“This time we can make a real difference in the North East and elect Alba MSPs who will not only fight for the North East but fight for independence in the next parliament”.

Welcoming Mr Vernal’s support, Mr Salmond said: “Hamish has been a huge champion for the North East so to have his support for Alba is a tremendous boost for our campaign and one that will resonate with people across the North East of Scotland.”