Friday evening UK news briefing: Alex Salmond returns with new Alba Scottish independence party  

Scotland’s former first minister has made a sensational return to frontline politics, announcing he is to lead a new pro-Scottish independence party called the Alba Party.

In a press conference today, Alex Salmond was unveiled as the new party’s frontman for the Holyrood elections ahead of the May 6 vote.

The Alba Party will be competing with Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) for its share of the Scottish independence support base.

The launch of his party comes after a turbulent period for the SNP. Read a timeline of Mr Salmond’s last four years and details of the party’s candidates. 

Tom Harris reckons the swaggering former first minister has proved he is still a threat to his one-time protege.

EU will not be ‘blackmailed’ over UK vaccine supplies

France’s foreign minister has said the EU will not be “blackmailed” by the UK on Covid vaccines. Speaking after President Macron’s failed gambit to block exports of the vaccine, Jean-Yves Le Drian said Europe would not “pay the price” for the UK’s decision to prioritise the number of people getting a first dose “knowing there will be problems with the second one”. The heads of state and government of the remaining 27 EU member states held a video summit last night to discuss stricter export controls on vaccines. Yet James Crisp analyses how EU leaders have left the gun of an export ban on the negotiating table with Britain but they do not want to pull the trigger in case they shoot themselves in the foot.

Around the world, health officials have rolled out more than 500 million coronavirus vaccine doses, although the pandemic is still surging in Europe and Latin America – where Brazil has now passed 300,000 deaths and Mexico 200,000. The Office for National Statistics said the prevalence of Covid-19 infections in England is no longer falling and has levelled off at an estimated one in 340 people. Britain’s vaccine programme has undoubtedly been a success so far, with restrictions easing from Monday as scheduled. Yet with pubs due to reopen in 18 days, Ben Marlow says landlords must resist vaccine passport blackmail.

Armed forces to adopt ‘Premier League-style training’

The Armed Forces are to adopt Premier League-style training methods to improve the performance of servicemen and women, The Telegraph has learnt. Traditional military drills such as completing distance runs under an allotted time are to be downgraded in favour of a new data-driven approach “specifically tailored” to individuals. The programmes will be akin to how elite athletes are monitoredThe Telegraph understands, with output and data measured “like never before” to help troops improve their mental and physical resilience on the battlefield.

At a glance: Coronavirus evening briefing

Also in the news: Today’s other headlines

Mohammed cartoon | The school at the centre of a row over the showing of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed in class has closed after crowds gathered at the gates for a second day. See video from the scene.

Around the world: At least 32 dead in Egypt train crash

Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi vowed to punish those responsible for a train crash on Friday that killed at least 32 people and injured over 100, in the latest of several fatal rail accidents to befall the country. The Egyptian railway authority said the crash, which left passengers trapped under wreckage, was caused by “unknown individuals” pulling the emergency brakes. Read on for details.

Friday interview

‘I gave him a head start of 10g of cocaine and four bottles of whisky’

Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry before the 1994 World Snooker Championship Final at the Crucible

Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry before the 1994 World Snooker Championship Final at the Crucible

Credit: Getty Images

For Jimmy White, a renewal of rivalries with Stephen Hendry in the first round of qualifying for the World Championship is enough to unleash a flood of memories. He tells Hector Nunns that few of them are happy

Read the full interview

Comment and analysis

Editor’s choice

  1. Stanley Johnson Why I’m delighted my holiday let loophole has got legal backing
  2. Middle-age even got Pete Doherty How the hellraising Noughties crowd mellowed out
  3. Death of Mondeo man | The Ford Mondeo is a casualty of the way we live now

Business and money briefing

City access to Single Market | The UK and European Union have reached a deal on a forum for both sides to discuss financial services regulation. The memorandum of understanding sets the terms of engagement between the two parties but does not grant the City of London access to the EU’s Single Market. Read on for details.

Sport briefing

India vs England | Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes launched a six-hitting blitz as England delivered a savage batting performance to tie the ODI series with India at 1-1. Read on for the match report.

Three things for tonight

And finally… for this evening’s downtime

The history of Sherlock spin-offs | The ever-popular consulting detective has proved a gold mine for adaptations but don’t blame the fans – his creator got there first. Susannah Goldsbrough takes on the curious case of Sherlock Holmes and the never-ending spin-offs.

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