Alex Salmond has claimed Nicola Sturgeon has indicated she will work with his pro-Scottish independence Alba Party and others who back a second referendum on a breakaway.
Mr Salmond suggested that the reality of creating a bigger majority for independence in the Scottish was beginning to dawn for the SNP leader, after a week of being “upset” over the creation of Alba.
Repeatedly pressed on whether she would rule it out working with Mr Salmond’s party to help deliver indyref2, Ms Sturgeon told ITV on Wednesday: “It’s not for me to say what MSPs elected from other parties vote for in a Scottish parliament.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday, Mr Salmond said: “I think that actually after, admittedly, after a week of being quite upset, I think that it was probably indicated by Nicola Sturgeon in her ITV interview yesterday, where she did concede that you have to work with people in the Scottish parliament.”
He added: “Frankly, the cause of independence is much, much bigger than personalities. It’s a noble cause, it’s a huge cause for Scotland, and everybody now has to put aside differences and work in that national difference.”
Asked how the two parties could work together, given all the recent acrimony between the two leaders, Mr Salmond said: “You won’t find a word of negativity of coming off the lips of any Alba Party candidate.”
Reminded that one of his candidates, Dr Jim Walker, had called Sturgeon a “cow” on Twitter this week, Mr Salmond said: “And [he has] has apologised for it. If I may say, it was a Twitter debate before he became a candidate.”
Ms Sturgeon has challenged Mr Salmond – cleared of 13 sexual assault charges last year – to apologise to the women “that he behaved inappropriately towards”.
Asked if he had reflected on his behaviour towards women, the Alba leader said: “The case we forward at a trial, which is now a year ago, was that the claims against me were part fabrication, part exaggeration.
“The most significant is not what I said or what I reflected on, the most significant thing is the verdict of the jury. My behaviour has been tested as probably no behaviour has been tested before, in a trial of my peers … And most fair-minded people think that’s fair enough.”
Mr Salmond has persuaded two sitting SNP MPs and four councillors from Ms Sturgeon’s part to jump ship and join Alba. On Thursday, the former SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh – who lost her seat in 2017 – was unveiled as an Alba candidate for the central Scotland region.
Ms Sturgeon has denied her party is beset by divisions, claiming the SNP was Scotland’s most “united” force and support was “has never been higher”.
Speaking on Good Morning Scotland on Thursday, she said: “I think if you look at the breakdown of opinion polls, that tests the views and attitudes of SNP voters, then you will find that, actually, the SNP is the most united of all the parties in Scotland.”