Scotland politics

Salmond: Michelle Thomson situation 'handled badly' by SNP

Alex Salmond Image copyright PA

Alex Salmond has criticised his party over its treatment of former SNP MP Michelle Thomson.

Ms Thomson has said she was given no choice but to resign the SNP whip after a fraud allegations were made against a former business associate.

She later sat as an independent MP for Edinburgh West but stood down at the general election.

Mr Salmond said the SNP had faced a difficult situation which it had "handled badly".

But he also blamed the media for destroying the political career of Ms Thomson, whom he regarded as "an incredibly talented female politician".

The former first minister was speaking to reporters ahead of his Edinburgh Festival Fringe show "Alex Salmond Unleashed" which begins on Sunday.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Michelle Thomson won Edinburgh West for the SNP in 2015, but was deselected before the 2017 snap election

Ms Thomson was one of five people named in a Police Scotland report to prosecutors in December 2016 about alleged mortgage fraud.

The Crown Office, however, announced earlier this month that there was no "credible and reliable" evidence that she engaged in illegal activity.

Ms Thomson, who always denied any wrongdoing, has since criticised the SNP leadership over her treatment and suggested Nicola Sturgeon should apologise.

Asked about the matter, Mr Salmond said: "It's a difficult position for any political party to be in.

"It was an extremely difficult situation, which the SNP handled badly.

"I thought, whenever the parliamentary group voted on this, that you cannot have a situation where people are denied natural justice.

"There is a point where you have to take action and I happen to believe that's at the point of charging, dependent on the offence."

Nicola Sturgeon recently described the Michelle Thomson situation as "not easy" for her party and offered to meet her to discuss her future SNP membership.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Salmond says his Fringe show will be a mixture of banter and behind-the-scenes revelations

Mr Salmond was also questioned about Scottish independence, saying he believed there would be a "Yes vote" in a referendum within four years, although the precise timing would depend on Brexit.

He said: "I think Scotland will become independent, I think that was rendered inevitable when the Scottish Parliament was established.

"The timing has always been the interesting thing and I think the timing and outcome of Brexit will dictate the timing of another referendum, and therefore the timing of independence, in the medium term.

"If Brexit is a soaraway success, the best thing since sliced bread, then I think that will postpone another referendum but I don't know anyone who thinks that now.

"So therefore I think a (second independence) referendum will be at some point in the next three to four years, depending on the transitional period of Brexit, and I think the result will be a Yes."

Mr Salmond, a former SNP leader, said he would play "whatever part is necessary" in a future referendum campaign and did not rule out a return to office.

In the meantime, he said he looked forward to enjoying the freedom to express himself in different ways.

"There are things you can't say in office that you can say out of office," he said.

Independence 'obsession'

The Scottish Conservatives said it was clear Mr Salmond had "learned nothing" from his election defeat.

Deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: "The SNP's obsession with independence and a subsequent lack of focus on education, health and the economy was a key factor in the widespread losses suffered by his party in June.

"Voters sent a clear message that they are fed up hearing about a second referendum, but it seems Mr Salmond, along with many others in the SNP, is still not listening."

Mr Salmond, who lost his Gordon seat in the June general election, will perform 18 shows at the Fringe, promising light-hearted banter and a few behind-the-scenes-revelations from his time in office.

An extra night has been added, the second time the run has been extended after tickets sold out.

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