What does Alex Salmond's fresh legal bid mean for the SNP?

This is a legal case, but its political impact is inescapable, writes STV Westminster Correspondent Paris Gourtsoyannis.

What does Alex Salmond’s fresh legal bid mean for the SNP? Getty Images

Alex Salmond has unfinished business.

His announcement on Friday that he is bringing a civil action alleging misfeasance – misconduct in public office to knowingly cause harm – and reportedly seeking significant damages, makes that clear.

Having already taken the Scottish Government to court over its mishandling of harassment claims against him, and won – being awarded half a million pounds in legal costs – and having been cleared of sexual assault in a separate criminal trial, Salmond is seeking to prove he was wronged.

Among those named in his action are former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, and former Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans.

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon

This is a legal case, but its political impact is inescapable. It hardly needs saying but, this is the last thing that First Minister Humza Yousaf needs.

Last week, the SNP enjoyed one of its best weeks politically in a long time, trapping Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour party over its divisions on a ceasefire in Gaza.

But that moment was brief, with the attention swallowed up by revelations about health secretary Michael Matheson’s £11,000 iPad roaming charges.

At FMQs on Thursday, Yousaf came under attack from all sides over how honestly the Government has handled the iPad row – not just from the opposition, but from one of the SNP’s own MSPs, Fergus Ewing.
Ewing’s public unhappiness at the Government’s direction speaks to broader, quiet unease among nationalists.

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf (L) and health secretary Michael Matheson.

There is, of course, still the unresolved issue of the police investigation into the SNP finances that saw the party’s chief executive, treasurer, and former leader Nicola Sturgeon arrested and released without charge.

And now another legal dispute that could entangle some of the SNP’s most senior former figures, and risks further damaging revelations, whether Salmond is successful or not.

In his statement on Friday, Salmond alleges that the actions of the Scottish Government in its handling of claims against him were “done for political reasons, and specifically to injure” his reputation.

Whatever the outcome, another prominent legal battle can only do further injury to the SNP’s brand. And that couldn’t come at a worse time, with the nationalists already sliding in the polls and a general election on the way in perhaps as little as six months.

For the first time since 2007, when Salmond led the SNP into government in Scotland, pro-independence voters could find themselves in the polling booth feeling that their vote can’t influence who the winner is. His Alba Party will be another option, and for those on the left, so will Labour. So will staying at home.

Salmond has never accepted that his time on Scotland’s political stage was over – not after resigning as first minister, nor after losing his seat at Westminster in the 2017 general election.

He isn’t done influencing events now, either.

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