ANGUS MacNeil has revealed he had no intention of defecting to Alba – though he welcomed their arrival as a new pro-independence political force and called for a positive debate with its members.

There was intense speculation for most of the week that the Western Isles SNP MP would be among the SNP politicians making the switch to Alex Salmond’s new party, which is aiming to get a supermajority for independence at Holyrood.

Two of MacNeil’s colleagues at Westminster, Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey have moved over to Alba and like Salmond are hoping to win seats in the Scottish Parliament via the regional lists.

MacNeil is also a close political ally of Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny, with both politicians pushing the SNP to come up with an alternative Plan B to independence if Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to reject an agreed referendum as he has repeatedly said he will. McEleny has switched from the SNP to Alba and is among the party’s candidates.

Salmond’s announcement last week that he was to lead Alba provoked fierce criticism from some in the SNP.

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Glasgow South SNP MP Stewart McDonald mocked the former First Minister’s press conference and the SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford described MacAskill as “an embarrassment” when he defected to Alba.

“The more parties of independence the better, eventually of course all parties will be parties of independence – same story in every country,” MacNeil told The National.

“Also I won’t be encouraging snide or smearing remarks about the Alba Party, we should instead be arguing against those trying to block independence, not denigrate those who are for it and keeping the discourse positive.”

Asked about whether he had considered leaving the SNP to join Alba, he said: “I had no intention of joining, it was never something I intended to do.

“I can’t say that I am unhappy that there is a change in the dial on the focus on independence in this election.

“It makes the Scottish election very interesting indeed. Anybody who thinks independence is important will be pleased there are now two serious parties of independence rather than one.”

Asked about allies such as McEleny defecting to Alba and the Plan B debate, he added: “Someone will have to stay in the SNP and fight that corner.”

Pressed if he would be voting SNP in both the constituency and regional list section of the ballot, he said: “I can see the argument people have when they use calculators and logic. If all SNP votes were to transfer on the list to Alba you would have 30 odd Alba seats and 30 less London party MSPs, but of course that is using logic and sense. Using politics as I do and have to do, it’s both votes SNP of course.”

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MacNeil went on to say that Michael Russell’s 11-point plan to deliver an independence vote “would have to deliver” but if it did not then he believed the 2026 Holyrood election would be an effective independence referendum adding: “Unless of course there are enough MSPs to [call an early election] before 2026.”

Alba are not standing in any constituency seats but are fielding four candidates in each of the eight regional lists in Scotland.

Salmond tops the north east regional list and MacAskill the Lothian list. Other candidates include former SNP MPs George Kerevan, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and Corri Wilson.

They also include the former SNP women’s convener Caroline McAllister and former equalities convener Lynne Anderson.