Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Alba : Quo Vadis?

 So why did a party, Alba was formed in early 2020, suddenly arrive on the scene, when there were already three "list parties" up and running, just days after Mr Salmond's attempts to run down the SNP First Minister came to a clunking halt when the Holyrood investigator on "Minister's lying to Parliament" comes up with a report there had been no breach of the ministerial code by Ms Sturgeon on the issue Mr Salmond complained about while at the same time the Holyrood Committee appointed to look into the failure of the Civil Service Sexual Harassment protocol, which was found to be flawed in the original case brought against Mr Salmond, descended into a partisan falling out as the Unionist members found they could not pin anything on Ms Sturgeon either.

Anyone know how or why Alba suddenly arrived and basically told the other newly arrived list vote parties to get behind Alba and drop all their proposed candidates?

For those of us with an understanding of SNP internal politics it was no surprise to see Mr MacAskill defect nor George Kernevan's "Road to Damascus" moment. Both had been thwarted in internal SNP NEC elections and now felt side lined and put out to grass by the membership and leadership. We waited with baited breath for the other obvious defector, Joanne Cherry, to announce she was going as well, after her very public falling out with Mr Blackford and demotion. Surely Alba with its anti-woke platform would suit her better with her well known views on the transgender legislation and its threat to women of what ever sexuality. Then again maybe she looked at the Alba women activists and some of their frankly homophobic views and decided it was better to stay put for now. Maybe she thinks, like many do, Alba will be a one election wonder and not be able to offer her, as an ambitious woman, any political future. We do not know but Ms Cherry, for now, stays within the SNP camp, even if she is not a very happy camper.

Then there is the problem for us active SNP members when Alba started claiming to be there to "help" the SNP while making statements about the EU, a future referendum, currency and transgender legislation which are diametrically opposite to SNP Policy. How does this reflect "help"?

Not soon afterwards Mr Salmond had changed his mind about "helping the SNP" and stated Alba's job in the next Holyrood Parliament "would be to hold the SNP's feet to the fire". In most normal people's minds that looks a pretty aggressive statement for a party whose initial line was "helping the SNP".

We have recently had a piece by Mr Kernevan in the National which made clear that Alba's role would be to break the status quo of SNP dominance at Holyrood and remould Scottish politics, Alba are going to be the grit in the SNP oyster. This is now a long way from "helping the SNP" and is a clear statement of intent to wreck the SNP.

Then we have the continuing arguments from both sides using statistical models either to back up SNP 1&2 or to prove Alba can win seats if they can get their vote to over 6% in any list constituency. The problem for Alba is there is no way of telling if the seats they win will be at the Greens or SNP expense no matter how they try to play it. The most likely result is they will replace Greens and leave the Unionists, they claim they are after, intact. To have a real impact on Unionist list seats Alba needs to be polling at over 15% and the Greens hold at their 12 % share. Outside of the Alba activist community few everyday voters will be likely to vote for Alba, mostly because normal folk vote for the party they trust and has a decent record in Holyrood, so where will they gain the further 9% over the base 6% they already claim to have, to actually threaten Unionist list seats?

Alba also have a fundamental problem in their populist leader, Mr Salmond, who is a marmite politician in the real world, he is either liked or disliked.  Given the result of his appearance at the Holyrood committee and Ms Sturgeon's response, the SNP added more new members. The last figures I saw were 100 SNP members resigned (to move to Alba) in a one week period while 300 joined. Since 2014 my own SNP branch, in a rural area, has gone from 28 members to over 150. We have had five new members since the New Year.

Given the current levels of support for the SNP across Scotland, just where will Alba get its vote from, outside of its own circle of activists and their friends?

Then there is the small issue of where is Alba getting its funding from?

No matter where I have looked on the net, there is no open source available to see where Alba funds are coming from.

The lunatic fringe claim that Alba is backed by Russian oligarchs on behalf of Putin but I find that hard to believe as it would be political suicide for Mr Salmond. Others claim it is Tory dark money behind Alba or the UK SIS both of which, politically, are equally disastrous for Alba and very unlikely to be true. Maybe Mr Salmond and the founder of Alba are paying for campaigning and seat deposits out of their own pockets or the candidates are paying their own deposits. As long as Alba fail declare where their funding is coming from, the tin foil hat brigade will continue to have a field day.

OK, let us jump ahead and Alba get say 5 MSPs from their 6% vote share in each of the Central Belt list regions, what are their options?

Having annoyed the Greens and SNP by taking list seats from them while leaving Unionist seats intact, Alba are unlikely to be invited to any discussions on a future referendum. The two bigger pro-Independence parties will first look to isolate Alba MSPs and leave them to shout into the wind. The Holyrood committee system will also ensure Alba will be seen on few if any committees. Those with longer memories will remember how quickly the SSP were reduced to silence and doing what they were telt, in the early days of Holyrood, even with firebrand Tommy (now an Alba member) at the helm. How many MSPs does the SSP have now?

What then is left to the 5 Alba MSPs to do in this situation?

Do they sit in the members' cafeteria thinking up dark plots to bring down the SNP and Greens, stabbing waxen images of Ms Sturgeon with pins, while Scotland is on the verge of independence?

What do they do with their once a month question to the First Minister?

The options are they either carp from the sidelines with their once a month FMQ, pretty ineffectively, as their only support when doing that will be from the Unionist Parties or do they do the politically sensible thing and seek to co-operate with the Greens and SNP. This rather dampens Mr Salmond's claims of "holding SNP feet to the fire" as they will be very junior partners and on a very tight leash if they agree to work with the SNP and Greens on independence; with both parties having agreed a path, with well established plans and a referendum bill ready and waiting to go to Holyrood, post 6th May 2021.

Ultimately any future Alba policy on co-operation by any of their potential MSPs with the SNP and Greens will be decided by just how badly Mr Salmond wants his name in lights as one of the bringers of independence to Scotland and to secure his place in Scotland's political history. 

I think we all know the answer to that one, at least.

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