The potential return of Alex Salmond to Holyrood “fills me with dread”, Jackie Baillie has admitted.
Scottish Labour’s deputy leader said the former first minister being re-elected would be “desperately sad for the Parliament” if it distracts from efforts to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
She said Mr Salmond’s presence at Holyrood would exacerbate divisions and continue his feud with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – a relationship which fractured after he was accused of multiple sexual assaults.
Ms Baillie sat on the Scottish Parliament inquiry into the Scottish Government’s unlawful handling of harassment allegations against Mr Salmond, who was cleared of 13 charges by a jury in a criminal trial and then successfully challenged the Government’s investigation.
Mr Salmond now leads the newly-formed Alba Party and is standing in May’s election for the North East region.
Speaking after Scottish Labour launched its women’s manifesto on Wednesday, Ms Baillie said: “Having spent hours and hours and hours on the harassment committee, I can say to you that the thought of Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond continuing their division and their arguments in the Parliament just fills me with dread.
“It will expose the deep divisions in the SNP, but it will divert the attention of the Parliament at a time where we should be focused on recovery.
“Certainly for people in my community, that’s the most important thing.
“If we had both of them boxing with each other it just is going to be desperately sad for the Parliament.
“But at the end of the day, it’s a matter for the electorate and from what I’ve seen of current polling, I don’t think Alba or indeed Alex Salmond may well be represented in the Parliament.
“We shall need to wait and see until May 6.”
Ms Baillie also said she “finds it really difficult” to believe the former SNP leader has a strong commitment to women’s rights, based on her experience on the Holyrood inquiry.
She added it is “shocking” that the Scottish Government has not updated its harassment policy since it was unlawfully used to investigate Mr Salmond, and she added Parliament must “urgently” act to correct it.
Asked about Mr Salmond’s comments that he would push for independence “every day” of the next Parliament, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “I think it demonstrates a stark choice for people in this election campaign.
“Do we want a Parliament that is going to become an SNP infighting psychodrama? Do we want it to be the circus of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon’s feud as the focus of the next five years of our Parliament?
“Or do we want it to be a Parliament that’s focused on recovery, not referendum and revenge. That is the stark choice facing people across the country.
“And that’s why if you want a Parliament that is focused on recovery, not going back to the old arguments, not settling scores, not making it about egos, then you need to stop an SNP majority and, secondly, also have a Parliament and an opposition that is pulling parliamentarians towards the people’s priorities and that national recovery.
“Alex Salmond’s not going to do it, Douglas Ross is not going to do it, George Galloway is not going to do it.
“The contrast could not be starker between Alba’s manifesto launch today, which is one man seeking revenge, and Labour publishing a women’s manifesto to challenge the inbuilt structural inequalities coming through this pandemic.”