Alex Salmond has claimed that voters “want a party that puts independence first and foremost”.

The former first minister, who stood unopposed and was confirmed as the leader of the Alba Party at its inaugural conference in Greenock on Saturday, told the PA news agency it had become a “real political party” that could become a force for independence.

But the party struggled at this year’s Holyrood elections, failing to win a single seat.

READ MORE: Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill confirmed as Alba leadership team

Mr Salmond said: “People want a party which puts independence first and foremost, which sees independence not as something for the hereafter, but for the here and now.

“Alba is that party, we’re fulfilling that desire in Scottish society and the strength of our delegates and membership indicates we’re on the right road.”

Mr Salmond continued: “Alba has been around for five or six months, but you’re not really a party until you’ve had your conference.

“Up until today, I was the only nominated official in the whole party.”

HeraldScotland:

MP Kenny MacAskill – who was one of the most high-profile figures to leave the SNP and move over to Alba when it was launched in March – was elected as the party’s depute leader on Saturday, defeating Glasgow councillor Michelle Ferns by 827 to 323.

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“The delegates who have packed into the hall, they have elected their chosen people to get on to the executive and to drive the party forward.

“Alba, as of this weekend, becomes a real political party and a potential real force for independence.”

Another high-profile defection, Chris McEleny, was also confirmed as the party’s new general secretary – a post he has also held on an interim basis.

The former SNP leader unsuccessfully stood earlier this year on the north east regional list, as Alba failed to return a single MSP in the Holyrood elections.

Earlier, Mr Salmond hinted at another run at electoral politics, saying: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Alex Salmond has another go at electoral politics in the future.

“But right now I’m just celebrating the fact that I am now officially the leader of Alba and I’ve got a real political party to lead, with fantastic delegates.”

The next chance the former first minister would have to run is the council elections next year.

When asked if this would see his return, he said: “I don’t know, I’ll have to have a think about that, but you’ll certainly see Alba fielding a range of great candidates in the local elections.”

Mr Salmond went on to say he was confident of a better showing next year than in May’s election.

“We were formed four weeks before the election, we didn’t even have the symbol on the ballot paper because time was so tight with the Electoral Commission,” he said.

“Now we’ve got the symbol on the ballot paper, so now that people will be able to find us, yeah, I think we’ll do really well.”

He added: “If Alba make a breakthrough in these council elections, then all of a sudden you’ll see independence from the SNP-Green coalition go from the bottom of the agenda, to the top of the agenda.”

HeraldScotland:

Nicola Sturgeon

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last week that work would restart on creating a “prospectus” for an independent Scotland, while the co-operation agreement struck with the Scottish Greens pledged to hold another referendum on leaving the UK by the end of 2023.

Mr Salmond continued: “Alba’s role long term is to be a leading part of the independence movement, but in the short term – next year’s council elections – we can galvanise the independence campaign.

“We can be the grit in the independence oyster.”