Current Affairs Politics

Alex Salmond’s Alba Party

It’s over a week since I suggested that “…none of us can predict what the suddenly unpredictable Alex Salmond might do next”, and sure to form the embattled ex-leader of the Scottish National Party surprised friend and foe alike last Friday with the launch of his new Alba Party. Or so it seemed to me. In fact, some activists in Scotland were aware of this possibility for the last couple of months, if events at Holyrood failed to remove Nicola Sturgeon and her allies from the leadership of the SNP and usher in the triumphant return of Salmond and his supporters. Now with his own political movement at his back the former First Minister is free to once again contribute to the establishment of an independent Scotland. If the electoral cards fall that way. And, of course, only coincidentally rehabilitate his own personal reputation in the process.

The claimed reason for the existence of the Alba Party stems from the complex bipartite electoral system for the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, which uses a form of first-past-the-post and mixed-member proportional representation, resulting in representatives being separately elected from constituency votes and regional list votes. The former level favours the SNP, while the latter level favours the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Lib Dems and the Scottish Green Party.

This seemingly odd outcome is driven in large part by the strong showing of the SNP in the constituency contest which results in the electoral system, using a modified D’Hondt method, granting its eclipsed rivals a compensatory boost in the regional list contest. Which is a simplified way of saying that London legislated for devolution in Scotland using a partly very un-British electoral system that was deliberately intended to prevent a large nationalist majority in the devolved legislature by ensuring that unionists would get representation through the backdoor additional member method.

A strategy that of course is not too dissimilar to the one pursued by the United Kingdom authorities in Ireland during 1920-21 with the introduction of a system of proportional representation single transferable vote for local elections and the planned home rule partition elections north and south. And we all know how well that went for our UK overlords.

So Alex Salmond’s intention is for his new party to compete in the list vote while leaving his old party to fight at the constituency level, the hope being to secure a nationalist “super-majority” across the board. And reaction to that novel strategy has been, to say the least, mixed. The SNP is leading the charge against the Alba Party but the Greens, the pro-independence beneficiaries of the regional vote, are not too far behind since they could conceivably lose much of their already meagre representation in Holyrood. However, on the flip side, other more determinedly nationalist groupings, such as the upstart Action For Independence, are already stepping aside for Alba (no doubt helped by Salmond’s canny decision to open his party to dual membership of other organisations) and the pressure is on for other groups to do the same.

Will it work? In theory it makes some kind of electoral sense. But I would be more inclined to see the benefits of such a plan if two anti-union parties contesting the constituency seats and the regional lists had agreed beforehand to some form of formal voting pact. With the supporters of Salmond on one side and Sturgeon – and Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater – on the other it is difficult to see how this will work out. Unless of course the wisdom of the crowd takes hold, and voters make up their own minds no matter what pundits on either side might say, as happened with the unexpected Sinn Féin surge in our own last general election.

There is much, much more I could write. Not least on the slightly shambolic press conference announcing the establishment of the Alba Party, with a weary-looking leader looming in shadowy lighting, the fun about the pronunciation and frequent mispronunciation of the group’s new name, and the appearance of the now divisive if possibly still influential Wings Over Scotland author Stuart Campbell among Salmond’s most ardent on-screen admirers (someone whose mere presence was almost guaranteed to wind up the supporters of Sturgeon). Unfortunately time does not permit. But the worsening turbulence in Scottish nationalism is well represented in these two posts, and the vitriolic comments beneath, by the rhetorically gifted Wee Ginger Dug and the psephology focused Scot Goes Pop.

8 comments on “Alex Salmond’s Alba Party

  1. Very interesting development.

    On the basis of recent polls over a very considerable time now it is being forecast that the SNP will secure between 62and 66 of the 73 first past the post constituency seats. On that form and based upon around the near million votes in the second vote that the SNP secured at the last election these million votes would delver NO seats whatsoever.

    However, if the million votes were cast for Partaidh Alba, at no expense whatsoever to the SNP then ALBA would take around 30 seats. No ifs, and no buts, this would then deliver the super majority of around 94 seats out of a 129 seat parliament. And this is what the unionists fear. Wiped out under an electoral system Westminster created the Conservatives are already screaming that the election should be made illegal as it is undemocratic or that Labour should join with them to defeat the nationalist menace.

    Don’t know what Irish folks on the other side of the sea think but that’s the system and SNP1 and ALBA 2 is perfectly doable. Why wouldn’t you.

    And why would any SNP leader object to such a simple electoral proposal. Salmond is already saying to vote SNP 1 but to vote Alba 2. It makes perfect sense.

    And as for the Partaidh Alba itself, I suspect that announcements later this week will reveal an absolutely astounding membership. Reports of the numbers of people joining are incredible – and the party was only announced on Friday at 2.00pm. Partaigh Alba and the SNP are mining a deep reservoir of support across Scotland.

    The next Scottish Parliament and its relationship with Westminster is going to be quite different. 1707 was an international treaty, 2022 might be the year that it is repealed. That of course assumes of course that there is no Brit dark op political and military intervention as so oft is deployed against independence movements

    Liked by 1 person

    • I notice that Lesley Riddoch is claiming that the SNP reaction to Alba is having the opposite effect and encouraging voter interest. The next set of polls will make for interesting reading!

      Like

  2. It is a bit like Sinn Féin and SDLP.
    The Norn Iron nationalists do not speak well of each other but the actual voters (the wisdom of the crowd) sees no great difference.
    The nationalist voter in Foyle or Fermanagh-South Tyrone does not make a call on the basis of party politics.
    While I lean to SDLP and give SF my second preference, I have always taken the view that nationalists need both parties.
    If there was just one nationalist party what would a disenchanted voter do……go to Alliance?
    So I think Id make the same point about Scotland.
    It would actually be worse if SNP was the only nationalist party in the May election.

    It is reasonable to think that Sturgeon behaved poorly. But rather than stay at home or vote Green or unionist, Alba is a legitimate alternative.
    If it is believed that Salmond was the bad guy, then a vote for SNP is a vote against Salmond.
    It is less mud for unionists to throw….or at least I hope so.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oops, according to this article, Salmond’s personal rating in Scotland sits at circa -61, which is worse than even Boris Johnson’s Scottish rating:
    https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/apr/03/alex-salmond-alba-party-prospects-holyrood

    Even if true, it makes no difference to the overall scheme of things, nor detract from the points made above by fitzjameshorse

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Based poll last week Panel Base are suggesting that independence parties will secure 79 of the 129 Scottish Parliamentary seats comprising 65 SNP, 8 Greens and 6 Alba.

    Not a bad result at all and a fantastic result for Partaidh Alba who were only six days old at the time of the poll. This is more than encouraging since the Alba party vote will without a shadow of a doubt grow.

    Indeed were Alba to take the 2016 largely wasted list vote for the SNP ( where nearly 954,000 votes delivered 4 seats and 956,000 votes delivered 45 unionist seats ) then Alba would secure around 30 seats. The logic of voting Alba for your second votes as to SNP who will get absolutely no list seats thus makes so much sense.

    And so with Alba, days old sitting at 6% and the totally wasted SNP list vote sitting at around 45% it is not difficult to see why the only way is up for the Alba party. And this is why the unionist establishment is absolutely aghast at developments.

    Salmond was a popular First Minister. He took a country from 28% support for independence at the start of the 2014 referendum campaign to 45%. He has skill and ability. The Alba candidate team are hugely skilled and talented individuals comprising sitting MPs, ex MPs and MSPs, sitting councillors, and respected nationalist academics all wrapped up in group comprising 18 women and 14 men.

    This is a list of talented tried, tested and respected committed nationalists. No wonder the unionists fear them. Scotland’s Parliament is going to speak, and speak it will.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I see the latest polls are suggesting that SNP popularity is up 7% from last month to 53%, and Alba on 2% will not win a single seat. Alex Salmond’s “popularity” is still rated at -61 per cent. Conservatives and Labour are both down.
    In other news, George Galloway has joined forces with the Conservatives. Nuff said on that, I think.

    Like

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