A FORMER SNP MSP has defected to Alex Salmond’s Alba party after failing to get re-elected to Holyrood.

One-term Highlands & Islands MSP Mike MacKenzie said he had been “astonished” at the SNP’s lack of progress towards independence since the recent election.

He said: “I have been disheartened at the insistence that progress on independence be kicked into the long grass until after Covid.”

Mr MacKenzie, who served at Holyrood from 2011 to 2016, stood for the SNP on May 6. 

However, after being ranked sixth on the Highlands & Islands list by SNP members, he had virtually no chance of being elected.

After the SNP won 64 of Holyrood’s 129 seats, one seat shy of a majority, Nicola Sturgeon said there was a clear mandate for Indyref2 within this parliamentary term.

However she said the timing would depend on the state of the coronavrius pandemic.

Alba say independence talks with London should have started in the first week after the election, regardless of the pandemic.

Echoing that view, Mr MacKenzie said Alba was “the natural home for all those who are committed to  Independence and who want to see concerted action towards achieving it”.

He said: “Like other former SNP activists I have looked on in astonishment at the lack of progress made by the Scottish Government since achieving its renewed mandate for a Referendum at the recent Scottish Election.

"The Highlands and Islands have suffered disproportionately from the economic impact of Covid with the tourism and hospitality sectors in particular taking a real hit during lockdown.  

“I am looking forward to playing a full part in helping Alba develop the policies we need to tackle the unique challenges of the Highlands and Islands so that our people and communities can fully recover from the pandemic.

"We need to invest in transport infrastructure and broadband connections which will both retain and attract businesses to the Highlands, we must encourage young people to stay within their communities by making them attractive places to live and work and we need to sort out the chaos which exists across the CalMac network.  

"Alba have the people, the ideas and the commitment to take Scotland forward. 

"I am confident that ALBA's best days lie ahead and I am pleased to be joining them at this important time in Scotland's journey to Independence."

Alba MP Kenny MAcAskill said Mr Mackenzie’s defection was “just the latest defection from the SNP ranks but I am certain that it will not be the last".

He said: “Mike was highly respected and well liked as an MSP across the entire Parliament.  

“His defection is a real boost to Alba and shows that our call to inject urgency into the Independence campaign is resonating across the Yes movement. 

 "As a former builder and a former MSP, Mike brings business acumen and parliamentary experience both of which will be invaluable as Alba further develops its policy platform going into next year’s council elections.”