Alba Party interim leader Alex Salmond has told members that the party will contest the local elections in Scotland next year and that the party’s inaugural conference will be held this September. That will enthuse some supporters and frustrate other’s in the pro-independence movement who were hoping that Salmond and his new party would simply go away following their Scottish Parliamentary election failure.
It isn’t really a big surprise that the Alba Party are here to stay. I would have been stunned had they packed it in considering they have elected councillors and, not to mention, two MPs at Westminster. Their first party conference is being held on the anniversary of the 2014 referendum, so expect them to get some coverage and make noise as people’s thoughts return to the first independence referendum. It was definitely wishful thinking on the part of those who say that the failure of Alba to win a seat means that they should disappear into irrelevance. The simple fact is that Alba are, for better or worse, going to a part of the political landscape in Scotland.
That means that the local elections next year could have a big impact in the internal pro-independence debate. Alba say they want to push the SNP to move quicker on independence, and depending on how the rest of this year unfolds in terms of the pandemic and progress on a second independence referendum at Holyrood, Alba could very well been in a position to pick up more support come the local elections in 2022.
It could very well be the case that, if Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP do not make sufficient progress on a second independence referendum, a constituency of SNP supporters might become frustrated and use the local elections to give the SNP a kick up the proverbial backside. Alba might very well stand on that prospectus. “A vote for Alba is a vote tell Nicola Sturgeon to get a move on”. That could very well be the strategy. And it might just work if enough people grow impatient with the SNP’s strategy.
What isn’t clear is if Alex Salmond will stay on as leader of Alba. I have my suspicions that he may look to take on the role of party president. A role he would probably would have loved to take on at the SNP before the dramas of the last few years. A new leader might just soften some hostility towards the party from those critical of Salmond. Either way, the internal pro-independence splits and disagreements look likely to roll on for at least another year. Alba might not be rising, as Alex Salmond loves to say, but it looks as though they are here to stay.