The former Provost of Aberdeenshire has left the SNP after 60 years to back former first minister Alex Salmond’s new Alba party at the upcoming election.
Hamish Vernal, who joined the SNP when he was 16 years old, said it is a “considerable wrench” to leave it at the age of 76, but said joining and supporting Alba was a “pragmatic decision”.
Mr Vernal, who is no longer an Aberdeenshire councillor, made his announcement yesterday after three currently-serving elected members for the local authority formed the official Alba Party group on Aberdeenshire Council.
The new group is composed of councillors Leigh Wilson, Alastair Bews and Brian Topping, who have all joined Alba having previously been elected as SNP councillors.
Mr Vernal 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.
“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 to build a supermajority for independence is too good to miss.”
Mr Salmond established the Alba Party last month with the aim of creating a pro-independence supermajority in the Scottish Parliament by putting forward candidates on the regional lists for May’s election.
This afternoon, the former first minister is scheduled to set out his new party’s “route to independence”.
In an address scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, the Alba Party leader will make what he has called the “declaration for Scotland”, on the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath.
Mr Salmond said on Monday that momentum was with the Alba Party, which claimed on Friday to have signed up more members than the Scottish Lib Dems in the seven days from its launch.
A major poll undertaken by Survation for the Press and Journal suggested Alba may struggle to secure a single MSP, but a smaller poll commissioned by Times suggested as many as 6 successful list candidates may be possible.
Mr Vernal said: “I believe in independence, so I will give Alba my list vote and the SNP my constituency vote.
“As I’ve said to some of my friends who are still in the SNP, it’s a different bus to the same terminus, and that’s it in a nutshell for me.
“I’m not in the business of criticising the SNP. I won’t want to go down that role.
“This is just a pragmatic decision on my part to try and maximise the independence vote.
“Let’s get more MSPs who have independence in their bio.”
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.”