Video report from ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith
Scotland's former first minister Alex Salmond says it is "time to move on" from various court cases and inquiries after announcing the launch of a new political party to run in the Scottish Parliament elections in May.
The 66-year-old will lead the Alba Party, which will field at least four candidates in the regional lists.
The former SNP leader confirmed he will be standing for the party in May’s Scottish Parliament election, where he will face candidates from the SNP, Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Scottish Green.
Last year Mr Salmond was cleared after a criminal trial of a series of allegations, including a charge of attempted rape.
He insisted on Friday that after the various court cases and inquiries that have taken place he is looking forward not back.
“I have wanted to talk about the future of Scotland for the last three years," Mr Salmond said.
"Now I have got the opportunity thanks to the Alba Party.
“That’s what I intend to do, and I intend to do it in an entirely positive way.”
Launching the new party in an online event, the former SNP leader said: “Today Alba are hoisting a flag in the wind, planting our Saltire on a hill.
"In the next few weeks we will see how many will rally to our standard.” Among the candidates are an SNP councillor.
In response, the SNP said Scotland must come before the "self interest of someone who shows no sign whatsoever of reflecting on serious concerns about his own conduct."
The timing of the launch of the party comes amid a turbulent period for current first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Mr Salmond earlier said in a statement: "Over the next six weeks we will promote new ideas about taking Scotland forward, giving primacy to economic recovery from the pandemic and the achievement of independence for our country. "We expect to field a minimum of four candidates in each regional list and we're hoping to elect Alba MSPs from every area of Scotland."
Mr Salmond said the aim of the party was to work towards a "successful, socially just, environmentally responsible, independent country".
Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith explains the impact Alex Salmond's new party could have and its future on the state of the Union
He said the last Holyrood elections had one million "totally wasted independence" votes on the regional list, but the number could reach 90 with the Alba Party. Mr Salmond said: “The Alba Party is a list party, we are standing only on the list, we’re not challenging the SNP in the constituency.
“Indeed we are saying vote SNP or for an independence party on the constituency section, we are giving that support.”
The statement arrived after Mr Salmond announced plans to take legal action over the "conduct" of the Scottish government's top civil servant Leslie Evans. He said the Permanent Secretary failed to take "real responsibility" for failings highlighted in two reports this week about the government's investigation of harassment complaints against him.
It comes after the former first minister was cleared of 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh in March last year, after being arrested in January 2019.
"We've seen two court cases, two judges, one jury and I'm prepared to accept all of these," Mr Salmond said.
"So it is time to move on."
Responding to the launch of Mr Salmond's new political party, an SNP spokesperson said: "This is perhaps the most predictable development in Scottish politics for quite some time. "At this time of crisis, the interests of the country must come first and should not be obscured by the self interest of someone who shows no sign whatsoever of reflecting on serious concerns about his own conduct - concerns which, to put it mildly, raise real questions about the appropriateness of a return to public office. "The SNP has led the country through the last 12 months of the Covid pandemic, and at this election we offer the experienced, responsible and forward-looking leadership that the country needs." They added: "Our plans to get Scotland through and out of the Covid crisis, and support a recovery with fairness and equality at its heart, with the opportunity to put Scotland's future in Scotland's hands, will be the focus of our election campaign. "The only way to secure strong leadership, a referendum on independence, and a positive future for the country is to cast both votes for the SNP on May 6."