He says the “Alba Party” is not a threat to the SNP. However, following the latest news of high-profile defections, a break looks possible. Alex Salmond claims that adding a coalition of Alba Party MSPs to Holyrood would result in a “supermajority” in favour of freedom. The former first minister has no intention of forming an alliance or coming to any formal arrangements with the SNP for a return to power.
His hope is that the Alba Party will behave as a lobbying group with enough votes to sway the majority of parliament to make First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accountable for a second independence referendum. It remains to be seen if Mr Salmond’s new vehicle will be well received by the public. However, by fielding candidates across Scotland, it has the power to alter the composition of the competition in almost every seat, thanks to Scotland’s unique voting structure.
MSPs may be elected as constituency members or from one of Scotland’s eight regions using a “top up” proportional representation system. The tougher it is to win list seats the more constituency seats you win in any region. The SNP secured a wide majority of constituency seats in 2016, but only four regional list MSPs were elected as a result.
Alex Salmond argues that most SNP list votes will be “wasted,” and that they should instead go to his current list-only faction, which will have no constituency MSPs and thus have a greater chance of winning provincial seats.
The SNP, on the other hand, cannot continue to disregard the lists. They were able to gain a majority in 2011 with the support of no less than 16 list seats. They are unable to gain a single constituency, but they must aim to cover their local losses with list seats – in other words, their campaign must be “all votes SNP” from a tactical perspective.
There are ramifications for parties other than the SNP. Action for Freedom and the Independence for Scotland Party, both new parties, have now withdrawn all of their candidates in favour of Alex Salmond’s objectives.
The Scottish Greens mainly compete on regional lists, with the aim of securing “second ballots” from pro-independence supporters who favour the SNP in their constituencies. The party has made freedom a central theme in its bid for 2021, promising that all of its MSPs will support an indyref2 campaign in the coming term. Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats, for example, would have watched Mr Salmond’s announcement with popcorn in hand, aiming to stifle the SNP’s political juggernaut.
However, with just 56 list seats available, even the unionist parties could be keeping a wary eye on the margins in certain areas. They might not be fighting for the same votes, but if the Alba Party takes any of those seats, they may be forced out.
There are two ways to win seats in Holyrood, as well as two separate ballot papers, but there is just one campaign. The advent of a major political party will have a big effect on the discussion as a whole, as well as the questions raised each day, possibly reshaping the entire campaign.
Nicola Sturgeon had intended to spend this election campaign focusing on her pandemic leadership and her strategy for independence rather than Alex Salmond’s. Now she could be doomed to another six weeks of the “Sturgeon vs Salmond” psychodrama that has consumed her in recent months.
When asked about an independence vote at the Alba Party launch case, Mr Salmond mused about what other paths there could be to achieving self-determination. As a result, Ms Sturgeon’s approach is still being questioned. Rather than dictating the conversation on a subject that should be familiar to her, she will now be expected to respond to Mr Salmond’s stance on independence on a regular basis.
Alex Salmond still wishes to move away from the controversy over the government’s treatment of lawsuits against him in recent years, as well as the “malicious plot” he says was perpetrated against him. He has been questioned about his own behaviour in every interview. He says there have been numerous legal hearings and justices, a jury – which cleared him of sexual harassment charges in March 2020 – and a host of investigations each time. This should be the last word on the issue.
Politicians, on the other hand, have no influence on the questions they are posed on the campaign trail. Mr Salmond would not be able to easily ignore concerns about his former actions or the events of the last three years. If he wants his new political party to succeed – “Alba Party” – he has to keep giving them compelling answers.
Boris Johnson’s UK government in Westminster has declined to allow a rerun of the 2014 independence referendum, in which Scottish voters voted 55 to 45% in favour of staying in the United Kingdom.
However, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major wrote in a Financial Times op-ed that Scotland should not be held indefinitely in an agreement if her people want to terminate it. “It is unwise to dismiss Scottish ambitions, or to delay any vote, without action to expose the reality of separation — and remedy shortcomings in the UK’s devolution settlement,” he said.
“The government must engage, encourage, examine and explore arrangements to emphasise the value of a UK working in harmony,” he added. “With facts and reason, it should be possible to persuade a majority of Scots that it is better to remain in the Union than to leave it.”
Alex Salmond said that the establishment of Alba Party would help the campaign for a second referendum. However, analysts believe it would be more difficult for the SNP to obtain a majority in its own right on 6 May, weakening its hand against Johnson. Salmond denied claims that he was intending to damage the SNP. “We are not challenging the SNP in constituencies,” he said. “Our campaign … is going to be entirely positive.