NICOLA Sturgeon responded to the launch of Alex Salmond’s Alba Party while out on the campaign trail in Glasgow this afternoon.

The First Minister said while it’s up to voters to decide what they want at the upcoming election, “it’s not a game”.

She stressed her party is offering “experienced leadership to get us through this crisis”, as well as a “bold policy programme” and the chance to vote for independence after the pandemic. She said “voting SNP is the only way to secure that”.

READ MORE: Ian Blackford slams Kenny MacAskill as he quits SNP, calling departure a 'relief'

Alex Salmond, Sturgeon’s predecessor, launched his new Alba Party yesterday afternoon. The party will stand in the list vote only and he hopes it will deliver a “supermajority” for independence in the Scottish Parliament.

Chris McEleney, Cynthia Guthrie and Eva Comrie were confirmed as candidates along with Salmond. Today, MP Kenny MacAskill announced he would leave the SNP and stand for Alba on the list. Corri Wilson, a former SNP MP for Ayr, said she would be doing the same.

The National:

The First Minister was asked to respond to the latest developments while out campaigning this morning.

She told Radio Clyde:  “I take no pleasure in saying this, I think there are significant questions about the appropriateness of [Salmond’s] return to public office given some of the concerns that have been raised about his conduct.

“But that is a matter for voters to judge and decide. This is an election after all, we live in a democracy. For my part I am focused on the interests of the country.

“This is a serious election in very serious times for the country, it’s not a game. We need to make sure that the choices at this election are the rights ones for the country.

READ MORE: MP Kenny MacAskill quits SNP to join Alex Salmond's Alba Party

“So what I am offering is the experienced leadership to get us through this crisis. We’re not out of it yet, we can’t take our eye off that ball. Then the SNP is offering a policy programme to kickstart recovery and then of course when we’re out of the crisis to chance to choose independence so we can shape the future of Scotland. If people want that then they have to vote SNP to get that. Elections are not games. They’re not an opportunity to gamble with the country’s future, particularly not in times as serious as these. “

Asked if she was concerned about other SNP representatives leaving for the new party, she said she was not.

The National:

“Look, people will make up their own minds. I’m not overly concerned about that. If people want to do that, that’s up to them,” she said.

“I’m focused on the SNP campaign and this campaign, this is probably the most serious election in our lifetimes given the seriousness of the situation that the country is living through. So if you want strong experienced leadership to steer the country through the remainder of this crisis, if you want a bold policy programme to get the recovery underway and you want the chance to choose independence, voting SNP is the only way to secure that. That’s my message and it’s one I look forward to taking, socially distanced, to every corner of the country.”

READ MORE: Alba Party Scotland: Alex Salmond makes his return to politics

Yesterday at the party’s campaign launch, Salmond set out his plans for Alba.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Salmond said the aim of the party is to work towards a “successful, socially just, environmentally responsible, independent country”.