ALEX Salmond has said independence negotiations should start within days of the Holyrood election, despite the ongoing pandemic and economic fallout from lockdown

The Alba Party leader said that if a “supermajority” of pro-independence MSPs was elected in May, it would be a clear instruction that the Scottish Government should open negotiations with London “in week one”.

At a campaign event in Ellon, he said: “This idea that independence is something that can be pushed to the back isn’t correct. Independence is essential [so] that we ensure that recovery from Covid brings changes, and changes for the better, in Scottish society.”

The SNP said "this kind of nonsense will only make winning independence harder".

While Scottish Labour said it was "an insult to all those jobs and livelihoods that are still at risk". 

The gung-ho approach contrasts with that of Nicola Sturgeon, who last week said a second independence referendum should only take place once the health crisis has passed.

Most Scottish voters also see tackling Covid and its economic impact as the priority.

READ MORE: Alba Party leader Alex Salmond refuses to define what he means by an 'independence supermajority'

Setting out a “New declaration for independence” on the 701st anniversary of the declaration of Arbroath, the Former First Minister said there should also be a “standing independence  convention” to inform and support the Scottish Government’s negotiating position.

Alba is standing on the Holyrood regional lists with the aim of putting more pressure on Boris Johnson to concede Indyref2.

The former First Minister said: “Our task is to give voice to Scotland’s modern Community of the Realm. To demand self-determination. To assert nationhood and the need for respect and equality across these islands. 

“That can start in the Scots Parliament immediately following the election of a Supermajority of independence supporting MSPs. 

“Deliver that Supermajority and Parliament then issues a clear and unmistakable instruction to the Scottish Government to open negotiations with Whitehall on independence.

“That should happen in week one of the new Parliament.

“A standing Independence Convention can then be established, drawn from all of Scotland’s elected representatives, to give support and substance to the Scottish Government’s independence negotiating position.”

READ MORE: Alba Party urged to cut ties to Wings Over Scotland blogger after Sturgeon 'decapitation' row

The Prime Minister refused to grant Holyrood referendum powers under Section 30 of the Scotland Act last year, saying the No result of 2014 should stand for a generation.

Mr Salmond said a Section 30 order could be one tactic, but there were others if Mr Johnson refused, including mass protests.

He said: “A Section 30 referendum could be part of that, as could a plebiscite, or another democratic test as could domestic legal action or international and diplomatic initiatives, as could peaceful and popular demonstration.

“The tactics will inevitably evolve with the negotiations but the strategy is to make the achievement of Independence a real and overriding priority. 

"Be clear - if we don’t make it ours, Boris Johnson certainly won’t make it his.

“With an Independence Supermajority, resistance from Westminster to Scotland’s renewed Claim of Right will crumble.”

In a Q&A after his speech, Mr Salmond was asked if he thought Indyref2 should be held after the health crisis had passed.

He said: “Our belief is that in the first week of the parliament, the parliament together should issue an instruction to the Scottish Government to begin negotiations for Scottish independence. Thereafter, we see the formation of a Scottish independence convention. 

“I’ve outlined a range of tactics, including a Section 30 referendum, which might be part of that negotiating process, but there are other tactics as well.

“In terms of priority, independence is a priority for Alba.

“It’s not true that governments can’t do two things at the same time. In the administration that I led, we build a bridge over the Forth, a bypass round Aberdeen, a Borders railway, we introduced free education, and we still had time to fight an independence referendum in 2014.

“There’s a more important reason than that - after the horrors of the last year, the world won’t be, shouldn’t be, can’t be the same again. The world is going to change, and hopefully is going to change for the better, learning lesson from the tragedies of the last year.

“We have an economic recovery programme as part of our strategy.

“There are fundamental changes going to take place in this world and in the human condition. I want to see an independent Scotland as part of these changes, so we address the future collectively as a nation.

“This idea that independence is something that can be pushed to the back isn’t correct.

"“Independence is essential [so] that we ensure that recovery from Covid brings changes and changes for the better in Scottish society.”

READ MORE: Top Nicola Sturgeon aide backs Alex Salmond's Alba Party

Asked about his critics suggesting it would be grotesque to push for independence during the pandemic, Mr Salmond said: “When we unveil our Covid recovery plan - practical immediate measures which can be taken to face the scale of the economic tsunami that is going to descend upon us - then I think you’ll see these plans are very, very important to Alba.

"We’ll be bringing forward ideas which meet the scale of the issue and the challenge, which as yet I haven't seen from any other political party.”

Asked about lack of popular support for Indyref2, Mr Salmond said: “I don’t think we should pigeonhole ourselves into a Section 30 referendum for very obvious reasons, because Boris Johnson has already said he’ll turn that down if it’s opurt forward by a party.

“Therefore mobilising the supermajority, we have to give the Scottish Government a mandate to enter negotiations with a range of tactics.

“The aim of the National movement in Scotland is not to secure a referendum. 

“The aim of the National movement in Scotland is to secure independence for our country, of which a referendum of one kind or another could be one of the democratic tests to enable us to do so.

"The mandate we’re seeking is to begin negotiations.”

Asked about his rift with Nicola Sturgeon, and the First Minister saying she didn’t want to work with him, he said he expected she would put the nation first.

He said: “We’re at a stage in Scotland where we have to leave the personal behind and I’m going to continue in this campaign to stress that national, that is, the national interest.

“And the national interest is in electing as many as possible independence supporting MSPs into that parliament to build that super majority, to strengthen Scotland’s hands, to allow us to live our progress towards independence for Scotland.

“Now, we’re one party of a number supporting independence. The strength of our voice will depend on the verdict of the people.

“I’m merely saying the most potential for growth in that independence supermajority lies in voting for Alba in the regional list.”

He also mocked the SNP’s 11-point plan for independence as having “10 points too many”.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: "Alex Salmond makes it clear he expects Nicola Sturgeon to work with him to railroad through an independence referendum.

"It is a nightmare scenario which exposes the reckless Nationalist obsession of inflicting chaos and division on Scotland when all our attention should be on rebuilding from the pandemic.

"Senior SNP figures have said a referendum could take place this year while Salmond suggests the process should begin immediately after the election.

"The toxic Salmond-Sturgeon psychodrama endangers Scotland's future and only the Scottish Conservatives have the strength and determination to beat the Nationalists and ensure we instead focus on the issues that matter to people."

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “For Alex Salmond to plan independence negotiations in the first week is an insult to all those jobs and livelihoods that are still at risk. 

“Nicola Sturgeon cannot endorse this extreme approach to the constitution and needs to be clear that she will not bulldoze this through the parliament with an ugly allegiance with Salmond’s Alba Party.

"Scotland deserves better - and that is why Scottish Labour will devote its energy to delivering a national recovery plan so we can build a fairer and stronger Scotland together."

An SNP spokesperson said: "This so-called ‘plan’ is not in any way credible. Arguing on the one hand that Westminster will not agree to a referendum even if there is a pro-Independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, but on the other hand that it will agree to negotiate independence without a referendum, doesn’t pass even the most basic credibility test.

“This kind of nonsense will only make winning independence harder.

"This election is a choice between those who offer serious leadership capable of delivering and those who want to indulge in deceptively simple answers to difficult challenges.

"Scotland needs serious leadership - to get us through crisis, drive recovery and, after Covid, deliver independence."