Alex Salmond claimed a pro-independence Holyrood should start negotiating to quit the UK in the first week of the next Scottish parliamentary session.
The former First Minister’s tactic relies on what he loosely defines as a “super-majority” in the May 6 election.
The plan was condemned by opponents as “grotesque” while the country is still effectively in lockdown to beat a global health crisis.
Current SNP policy is to hold a referendum after the pandemic is over – with or without consent from the UK Government.
Mr Salmond hitched his campaign to the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, the moment in 1320 when Scots nobles asserted Scotland’s independence.
He said: “On week one of the Scottish Parliament elected with an independence supermajority, the Scottish government should seek an instruction from the parliament to begin independence negotiations with the Westminster government.”
In an online speech, delivered from Ellon in Aberdeenshire, the former SNP leader said those negotiations would cover the formal “section 30” permission for a legally binding vote endorsed by the UK Government, like in 2014.
But he added: “You may also remember the section 30 order wasn’t the only thing that was being explored in 2012 and 2011 in the run up to that agreement. We were exploring a multi-option referendum, a plebiscite, we were exploring a whole range of things.”
I get messages from senior people in the SNP on a daily basis – often it’s asking for an application form for the Alba party.
– Alex Salmond
Polls suggest the country as a whole is still split on the constitution and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ruled out Westminster approval for a second referendum.
Mr Salmond, who is standing on the North East regional list for parliament, says he can work with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is she’s re-elected to head an SNP government.
The personal friendship between veteran nationalists was destroyed during the probe into allegations of sexual harassment by Mr Salmond. He was cleared in court of criminal charges, and won a court battle against the Scottish Government over the way the administration handled complaints about him in office.
The former Gordon MP said he hopes the pair can put the “national” interest ahead of personal differences. However, he also claimed Ms Sturgeon’s party colleagues are jumping ship.
“I get messages from senior people in the SNP on a daily basis – often it’s asking for an application form for the Alba party,” Mr Salmond said.
If he gets elected along with other Alba candidates, Holyrood could have an expanded majority for independence.
The former SNP leader calls it a super-majority but did not want to confirm it would follow the legal definition for votes in parliament.
In the Scotland Act 2016, a super-majority is described as two thirds of all 129 MSPs, meaning more than 86 would be needed for the Alba Party to reach its goal.
A Panelbase poll at the weekend suggested there could be up to 79 independence supporting MSPs elected in May.
Our exclusive research by Survation earlier pointed to an SNP-Green majority short of the legal definition.
Answering questions at his online press conference on Tuesday, Mr Salmond said: “That is not the definition of supermajority that we are using.”
He added: “If there were 70 MSPs supporting independence that would be a majority and I would expect to see that majority moving forward with an independence platform.
“If there were 80 MSPs supporting independence, as the polls at the weekend indicated, then we’d be well on our way to a supermajority.
“If there were 90 MSPs, which I think is well within our reach for the independence supporting parties, then that would be a bigger supermajority.
“The point we’re making in the campaign is the stronger the supermajority of MSPs are supporting independence in the Scottish Parliament, the more the balance of power will be tilted in Scotland’s favour.”
‘We know independence is way down the list of people’s priorities’
Pamela Nash, a former Labour MP who leads pro-UK group Scotland in Union, said: “It’s time for the SNP to rule out working with its discredited former leader and his new party which is set up to game our electoral system.
“It is important to remember that people vote in elections on a range of issues, and we know that independence is way down the list of people’s priorities.
“It would also be unacceptable to bypass democracy by trying to leave the UK by the back door without a referendum, while the idea of governments starting complex and protracted constitutional negotiations in the midst of an ongoing national emergency is grotesque.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie described Mr Salmond’s push to launch negotiations within the first week of the new parliament as “extreme”.
“For Alex Salmond to plan independence negotiations in the first week is an insult to all those jobs and livelihoods that are still at risk,” she said.
“Nicola Sturgeon cannot endorse this extreme approach to the constitution and needs to be clear that she will not bulldoze this through the parliament with an ugly allegiance with Salmond’s Alba Party.
“Scotland deserves better – and that is why Scottish Labour will devote its energy to delivering a national recovery plan so we can build a fairer and stronger Scotland together.”
The SNP have been approached for comment.