"It was like trying to make a move at chess when you were already mated. Whichever way you turned, the telescreen faced you. Actually, all the possible ways"
Read Part SEVEN here
On 26th March 2021 just six weeks before the Scottish Parliament elections Salmond launches a new party – the ALBA Party. Within days of the launch, and mid pandemic, he has thirty-two candidates signed up to stand in the forthcoming election. Including two MPs Kenny McAskill and Neale Hanvey.
Pro-independence activists flock to ALBA, those that are frustrated by the SNP’s inaction on independence and women who have been side-lined and bullied inside the SNP. And, many of the ‘good guys’ desert the SNP for a party far more in tune with their aspirations and values. McAllister former SNP Women’s Convener, Anderson former SNP Equalities and McEleny whose ‘plan B’ was ignored by Sturgeon stand as ALBA party candidates.
THE ALBA Party proposes to use the proportional representation (PR) voting system for Holyrood to elect a super-majority of pro-independence MSPs.
MSP’s are elected to Holyrood representing either a constituency or a region. Scotland is divided into 73 constituencies and 8 regions. A constituency elects one MSP and a region elects 7 MSPs. The elector gets two ballot papers, one is to elect their constituency MSP and the other is to elect their regional MSPs.
The 73 constituency MSPs are determined first the candidate with the most votes wins the seat. Once all the constituency seats are decided the regional seats are allocated. This is the proportional part of the election which takes into account the constituency seats won. A party’s regional vote total is divided by the number of seats won + 1. This means a party that wins constituency seats is heavily penalised when allocating regional seats. In most regions an SNP vote in the regional ballot is only worth only a tenth of a vote for another party. The SNP is expected to win the vast majority of constituency seats and so they will be allocated very few regional seats.
The ALBA party’s super-majority plan is that independence supporters should vote for the SNP on the constituency ballot and vote for the ALBA party on the regional ballot. This would counteract the SNP’s regional ballot handicap and could produce a pro-independence super-majority at Holyrood.
A super-majority is defined in the Scotland Act as two-thirds of MSPs. There are powers of the Holyrood parliament that are available with a two-thirds majority. One such power is to call a Holyrood election and the power includes the voting system and the franchise. It should be clear how useful this power would be to the pro-independence cause. Holyrood at any time could call a plebiscite election on the single issue of independence. No Section 30 from Westminster would be required. Holyrood could even change the voting system to a pure PR system which would better lend itself to a plebiscite.
This was the proposal from Salmond’s ALBA Party.
Sturgeon reacts to the ALBA Party with fury. She takes to the airwaves to defame Salmond further. She even uses the platform of her COVID briefing to smear Salmond; she says she will work with Labour but she will never work with Salmond; she brands Salmond a gambler and calls his super-majority plan gaming the system; she lies and claims the regional vote ‘elects’ the First Minister; and she insists on both votes SNP as the only way to progress to independence.
On the few occasions Salmond is interviewed the interviews are unremittingly hostile. The interviewers repeat smears from the trial at which he was found innocent, questioning his suitability for office and why he is even standing as a candidate. Not a single interviewer asks him about his ordeal as a victim of a biased process and false accusations. And Salmond is excluded from the Leader’s Debate, the TV companies preferring to curry favour with Sturgeon than the massive ratings boost that Salmond would bring.
Alba candidates are not reported in the press unless it is a smear story, in which case it makes the front page.
Alba promotes pro-women policies and this brings them into direct opposition to the gender ideologues. ALBA candidates and supporters are subjected to the most horrendous abuse, trolling and pile-ons. The abuse is not just from anonymous internet trolls, but from Scottish journalists and even SNP MPs. There are threats of violence and a Green party candidate is reported to the police. Salmond, the man who brought in same-sex marriage and Hanvey a gay man, are called homophobes.
ALBA could not have avoided this onslaught, anyone that stands up for women’s rights suffers abuse and intimidation. The only way would have been to bow down to the ideologues. Despite this the ALBA party are winning the online war a poll in the National newspaper puts ALBA support at 50% on the regional list.
But what of the wider public? The ALBA party badly need to raise their profile but the campaign is during the pandemic with lockdown restrictions still in place. The party is mostly dependent on technology with no canvassing for most of the campaign; no street stalls; no large rallies all of which might raise visibility.
But the biggest issue by far is the news blackout, for the final weeks of the campaign Alba simply does not exist.
Sturgeon amid a dull campaign heavily promotes the ‘both votes SNP’ message. Two SNP buses travel the country emblazoned with ‘BOTH VOTES SNP’. Sturgeon is determined Salmond is not getting back into Holyrood.
And Sturgeon prevails. ALBA cannot breakthrough against the might of the Scottish establishment and the mainstream media. Not enough people know about ALBA or hear ALBA’s message, ALBA don’t even have their logo on the ballot paper. ALBA win no MSPs. The SNP fall just short of a majority and on the regional list over one million votes for the SNP net only 2 MSPs. The supermajority plan is dead and Scotland is looking at five more years of stagnation.
The SNP rejoice believing the ALBA Party is finished. They believe the threat to SNP ownership of the pro-independence vote is over. But they should not confuse an initial defeat with a final defeat. The ALBA Party has 6000 members amongst them MPs, councillors and activists, for many members Scottish Independence is their life’s work, many even remember the days when the SNP were a fringe party, they aren’t likely to give up, they will regroup and live to fight another day.
Sturgeon is returned as First Minister but she is tired. She is looking to new opportunities, but first she has to deliver her policy promises to the ideologues; she has to ensure the leadership goes to Angus Robertson when she steps down; and she needs to drive another stake into Salmond’s heart because he is still not dead.
Find out Sturgeon’s next moves and more on the ring-fenced fund in Part 9
Archive version - https://archive.md/NAEMk