SNP rocked by resignation and formation of new pro-independence party

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks during a coronavirus update briefing. Picture: Gett

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks during a coronavirus update briefing. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images

An SNP MSP has quit the party to form a new pro-independence party ahead of next year's Holyrood elections after claims a vote for his old party in the regional vote 'will achieve nothing'.

Dave Thompson said he was joining the new Alliance for Independence (AFI), which he predicted could win up to 24 MSPs in next May's election.

The new group will run under the slogan 'max the Yes', it was reported, aiming to increase the number of pro-independence representatives in the Scottish parliament.

Thompson told the Daily Record newspaper: 'Every regional list vote for the SNP will have no impact – it will achieve nothing.

'Whereas, if a lot of these votes came to AFI, we can garner a lot of MSPs. We are looking at anything between eight and 24 MSPs.'

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He added: 'As soon as we launch, and I formally join the alliance, I will leave the SNP.'

His comments come after veteran SNP MP Kenny MacAskill floated the idea of a separate pro-independence party standing in next year's Holyrood election.

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The former Scottish justice secretary, now MP for East Lothian, said last week that the 'Both Votes SNP' tactic that has been adopted by the party 'just doesn't work'.

But constitution secretary Mike Russell insisted his former Holyrood colleague Thompson was 'mistaken in his analysis'.

Russell told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: 'Anybody is entitled to join or to vote for any party that they wish.

'I know Dave very well, I've worked very well with him. I think that he's mistaken in his analysis.

'I believe that, in order to get independence, we need a unified movement.

'The SNP is clearly a key part of that movement – I've been a member of the SNP for more than 40 years and I'm certainly not changing my view.'

When asked about speculation that former first minister Alex Salmond will join the new party, Russell declined to comment.

In recent weeks Sturgeon has come under pressure to outline her plans for a route to Scottish independence after Boris Johnson blocked a second vote.

Some MPs in her party have called for a 'Plan B', which could lead to an 'illegal' referendum, or the SNP withdrawing from UK institutions until one is held.

An SNP spokesman said: 'Talk of splitting the SNP vote will be music to the ears of the Unionists. Those seeking to game the Holyrood proportional electoral system are putting at risk the SNP's progress.'

The move comes as a pollster says support for the United Kingdom has 'never looked so weak'.

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