LONDON (AP) — Scotland’s former first minister, Alex Salmond, said Friday he is setting up a new pro-independence party that will field candidates in the country's upcoming elections.

Salmond, who was acquitted last year in a sexual assault trial, said the Alba Party — named after the Gaelic word for Scotland — 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 the aim of the party was to work towards a “successful, socially just, environmentally responsible, independent country."

Salmond, who led the SNP for two decades and was Scotland’s first minister between 2007 and 2014, built the separatist party into a major political force and took the country to the brink of independence from the United Kingdom by holding a 2014 referendum. He stepped down as first minister after losing the vote, and Nicola Sturgeon — his friend and deputy — replaced him.

However, the two have been locked in a feud over who knew what and when about the sexual assault allegations against Salmond.

Earlier this week, a Scottish parliamentary investigation concluded in a split decision that Sturgeon misled lawmakers about the allegations against her predecessor. The finding came a day after a separate inquiry, by a senior lawyer, cleared Sturgeon of wrongdoing in the scandal that has roiled Scottish politics for weeks.

Sturgeon, who hopes to use the May 6 election as a springboard to another referendum on Scottish independence, hailed the report clearing her and condemned the one that found fault. She accused political opponents of trying to “bully me out of office.”

Salmond insisted that his new party would not damage the independence cause. He said Alba would not run against the SNP in Scotland’s 73 parliamentary constituencies but would field candidates in the regional contest used to elect the other 56 members of the Scottish Parliament.

He said his aim was for a “super-majority” for independence to emerge after the election as a result of his move.