In our last issue, we wrote about the launch of Alba party led by Alex Salmond, the former First Minister of Scotland. The party is pro-independence and was created to help bolster the options for independence supporters and in doing that to also oust some of the pro-Union candidates in the elections on 6 May. In addition, the intention is to push the Scottish government to use the mandate they already hold (in fact they have a few) in order to have another independence referendum. The party’s overall long-term objective is to build a "socially just and environmentally responsible" Scotland.
Alba has seen a remarkable rise in members since its launch and that there are now over 5500, which is quite a feat in a matter of around two months. In addition to being pro-independence, the party has an extensive manifesto  which includes policies such as protection of women’s rights, currently under threat due to the SNP’s controversial Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which you can read about by following the link below. Alba does not support that bill. Many long-standing women (and men!) in the SNP have left the party and joined Alba due to this policy, among others including the equally controversial Hate Crime and Public Order Bill.
‘Timidity is no longer an option, Scotland needs to shake itself up, to shed its caution and start to face up to what is ahead. And if we do face up to it then it will take very little time to realise that, well, we’re just not powerful enough to do all of what needs done. Yes, we could have done more to use the powers of devolution – but even now if we exhaust them to the greatest possible extent, it will not be enough. The challenges are just too big.‘
In the Independence Referendum of 2014, a small majority in Scotland voted “No” (55.3%, which was just over 10% greater than the Yes vote at 44.7%), which was at least in part due to a fear-mongering campaign led by the British establishment and promises of “Better Together” – quickly seen thereafter to be hogwash. However, Brexit has led to a significant increase in the number of people in Scotland who now desire Independence. The latest polls (which of course should be taken with a bucket of salt since most are quite small or conducted on readerships of various pro Union newspapers) show the figures to be standing at around 42–48%. However, a YouGov poll in August 2020 showed a 53% lead for the pro-independence side.
. During the campaigns running up to the 6 May elections, Alba encouraged the populace to vote SNP1 and Alba2 in the elections. The unique Scottish voting system (Additional Members System) requires that voters make two separate votes – one constitutes a first past the post system to elect MSPs who may or may not belong to a party, the second is the regional or list vote which uses a mathematical formula based on voter’s choices to elect party members for each of eight regional areas. The whole system is nicely explained by The Ferret, an award-winning investigative journalism platform which focusses mainly on Scotland.
This caused a fair amount of friction for SNP members and politicians alike, including Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister. Alex Salmond claimed that SNP1 and Alba2 would provide the greatest number of pro-Independence MSPs in Scottish Parliament and would knock out some of the unionist parties such as Labour, LibDems and Tories. However, Nicola Sturgeon and her supporters (comically referred to on Twitter as Sturgeonistas) insisted that SNP1, SNP2 was the only way to go. Many dedicated followers voted that way and so Alba did not do as well as hoped, ending up with only two seats in the House of Commons and none in Scottish Parliament, while the SNP won 64 seats (one less than a majority) of the 129 in total.
Many may describe Alba’s performance in the elections as disastrous and plenty were questioning whether Alba would remain as a party. However, when we consider that the party had only been launched some 6 weeks before, it was not a devastating result. Alex Salmond announced afterwards that Alba is here to stay and will be campaigning for the local elections in 2022. The case for independence has never been stronger due to the catastrophes emerging under Brexit and it is the intention of Alba to build a large enough membership to surpass the Tories’ and Greens’ numbers.
The Alba party conference will be held on 18 and 19 of September (a weekend), and it is hoped the numbers will have greatly increased by then. The conference will involve the election of the leader, executives, and office bearers. In the meantime, Alex Salmond will continue to lead and the 32 candidates who carried the party up to and through the latest election will act as interim executives until the conference. Alba has announced that everyone who joins the party before the end of June will be considered founding members and eligible to vote as delegates at the conference. The venue has not yet been decided, but it is likely to be announced in the coming week. Listen to the latest (21 May) weekly update from Alex Salmond.
There is undoubtedly a lot of hope among the pro-independence population who are “scunnered” as we say in Scotland with the SNP’s continually shifting goal posts to independence among other issues.