Three north-east former SNP councillors have joined forces to form the Alba Party’s first local authority group.
Aberdeenshire Council is the first authority in Scotland to have an official Alba Party group, consisting of former SNP members Leigh Wilson, Alastair Bews and Brian Topping.
Mr Wilson and Mr Bews quit the SNP last year and shortly afterwards set up the Democratic Alliance group with Green councillors Paul Johnston and Martin Ford.
They then joined Alba last month and claimed the move would “provide a fresh perspective” on important subjects.
Meanwhile Mr Topping quit the SNP to join Alba after 37 years last week, claiming he was “doing what so many other people are thinking”.
The trio have now formally announced the creation of the Alba group.
Mr Wilson, who represents the Mearns ward, said: “I think the Alba Party is the natural home for us because some of us have felt homeless for a while.
“The development of our policies in the days to come will demonstrate that because I think you’ll find we’ll be saying many things that the SNP used to say – we’ll be representing the real heart of the SNP, if you like.
“But the most crucial issue facing us as a country, after we emerge from the pandemic of course, is the necessity to have the full range of powers of a normal independent country – that way we can chart our own course and implement the radical changes that Scotland so urgently requires.”
The Alba Party was set up by former SNP First Minister Alex Salmond last month with the aim of creating a pro-independence “supermajority” in the Scottish Parliament.
It hopes to do so by putting forward candidates on the regional lists at May’s election.
North Kincardine councillor Mr Bews said: “The first thing we need to do with the election is build a supermajority for independence, creating an unassailable mandate for a referendum.
“In the last election the SNP secured nearly 140,000 votes across the north-east but returned no list seats; the Conservatives, in contrast, only achieved 85,000 votes but secured four seats.
“We are therefore encouraging independence supporters to vote for the SNP on the constituency and Alba on the list – that way the wasted votes will end.”
Fraserburgh councillor Mr Topping, who has been announced as a candidate for Alba at next month’s Scottish Parliament election, added: “I’ve been an SNP councillor 37 years but in this upcoming election we need to strike for independence.
“We will be looking to work constructively with other groups across the council, focussing on the recovery from the pandemic, and we will also be putting forward some interesting proposals of our own.
“I’ll now be taking on this position and intend to provide a strong voice for the Alba Party in Aberdeenshire.”
Party leader Mr Salmond said: “The Alba Party is delighted to recognise the Aberdeenshire Alba Group of councillors.
“We welcome Alastair, Leigh and Brian who all have a great track record of representing their own communities. Now they speak for Scotland as well.
“This is historic as they are Alba’s first-ever official council group in Scotland. They most certainly won’t be the last.”
The SNP has repeatedly sought to distance itself from Alba.
A spokesman said: “At the election in May, the people of Scotland face a choice. Whether to put Scotland’s future into its own hands or into the hands of Boris Johnson.
“The only way to put Scotland’s future into its own hands with a post-pandemic referendum is with Both Votes SNP.”