Chris Hopkins, associate director of the polling company Savanta ComRes, said the launch of the Alba Party would give SNP voters the chance to use their “otherwise wasted” list votes on another pro-independence party.
He said the new party was an exercise in trying to “essentially manipulate” the electoral system to return more pro-independence MSPs than the SNP would on its own.
Reacting to the former first minister’s announcement of the new party and the fact he will stand in the North-East regional list, Mr Hopkins said the ‘both votes SNP’ had been a logical, if not a mathematical move, for the last few elections.
He said: “Clearly Alex Salmond’s new party aims to strengthen the case for independence by harvesting otherwise wasted list votes from the SNP and turning them into pro-independence Holyrood seats for the Alba Party.
"By taking votes away from the SNP in the list, it’ll put the top-up seats usually won by the Conservatives, Labour and Greens most at risk, as the SNP do not tend to gain many additional list seats, such is the dominance they show at the constituency vote.
“Of course, perhaps “both votes SNP” is not just about independence. A cynic may say it’s about total SNP hegemony, whereby the party wants to continue to bang the drum, uninterrupted, for independence without the interference of anyone else, and Salmond’s new party could possibly upset the apple cart a little where other, smaller independence parties have failed to cut through.”
Mr Hopkins said the spectacle of a party advocating a message to vote for one party in one ballot and another in the second ballot is “fairly unheard of” and relies on voters “understanding the nuances” of Scotland’s additional member voting system.
He said the Alba Party “provides a potential antidote” to wasted list votes and could pile on the pressure to the UK Government if it returns a significant number of MSPs.
The pollster said a vote share of as little as 6 per cent in a region could see the Alba Party return MSPs. However, he suggested Mr Salmond’s lack of popularity could hurt their chances.
Mr Hopkins said: “But even then, how many SNP supporters will make that switch? Our most recent polling has the SNP on 40 per cent in the list vote, but two-thirds of SNP voters say that they trust Salmond less in the wake of the Salmond inquiry than they did before.
“To secure more pro-independence voices in Holyrood, lending their list vote to Alba makes sense, but that may mean, in the eyes of some, betraying their party and their leader, and the data is clear that the vast majority of SNP supporters favour Sturgeon over Salmond.
“The saving grace for Salmond is that they do not need to convince too many SNP voters to lend him their list vote for him to make his mark at the election in May – but whether he becomes more of a headache for Sturgeon if elected, may make those voters loyal to her think twice before giving Salmond their vote.”