Hope for Alba? Hope from Alba?

Having read the articles in The National today from Kenny MacAskill and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh I am now firmly convinced that there has been a change of tack by the Alba Party. A change which looks very encouraging. With the election out of the way, the party seems to be putting its dreadful campaign behind it but, crucially, not before having learned some important lessons. Alba’s electioneering hyper-hype did the party no good whatsoever – a derisory 1.7% and no seats – and seriously damaged the Yes movement by further polarising the divide between what we may call the SNP-loyalist and SNP-sceptical factions. That is to say, those who will tolerate no criticism of the SNP and those who will tolerate nothing other than criticism.

It is the most arid debate imaginable given that the reality remains the same regardless of which side ‘wins’. It doesn’t matter whether the SNP is the best or the worst party-political vehicle for Scotland’s cause, it is the one we have. The only one we have. And, despite a great deal of denial of time’s reality and effect, it is the only vehicle we are going to have before time and the efforts of the British political elite put the restoration of Scotland’s independence beyond the reach of any known democratic process.

Whether the Alba Party leadership and managers intended it or not, the hyper-hype generated by supporters fuelled by excitement and enthusiasm that wasn’t going to be reined in by mere political wisdom, sought to portray the party as an alternative to the SNP not just as a home for pro-independence voters, but as a source of effective political power. As I explained in a couple of articles (here and here) which were viciously attacked by Alba devotees but never refuted by any of them, there was no way that the party could have any political power at all. Not even if the wilder ambitions of those devotees had been realised. Not only were the spiralling claims of what the party could/would do dishonest, they massively aggravated the antagonism between the SNP-loyalist and SNP-sceptical factions leading to ramping entrenchment on both sides and the war of vacuous of whatabouteries that has so woefully impoverished discourse within the Yes movement. A paragraph in a recent Scot Goes Pop article by Alba ‘insider’, James Kelly hinted at a change of strategy by the party.

This is not, incidentally, a call for Nicola Sturgeon to stand down or to be replaced.  Apart from anything else, my guess is that her successor would probably be equally cautious about strategy.  But I do think we now need to be hardheaded about the fact that the SNP leadership have become the biggest obstacle to progress, and if it’s pointless to change that leadership, what we’ll need to do instead is change the leadership’s thinking.  That will require the building up of tremendous external political pressure – both from direct electoral opponents like Alba, and also from non-party organisations like Now Scotland.

The emphasis is mine. As is the sentiment. This, in fact, is almost precisely what I was urging prior to the election. Following the chain of logic through the irrefutable facts that only the suitably mandated Scottish Government can take the action necessary to effect the restoration of Scotland’s independence and that this must be done within the term of the current parliament and that only the SNP can possibly be the party of government within that time period (and almost certainly for at least one further term) brings us inevitably to the solitary conclusion that if we want that action taken in time to save Scotland from the British nationalist onslaught then the single task on which the Yes movement must concentrate its united strength is forcing the SNP/Scottish Government to abandon the ‘Sturgeon Doctrine’ which as more and more pro-independence and pro-SNP commentators are recognising, has left Scotland’s Cause parked up a blind alley for seven years.

The election hyper-hype peddled by the Alba Party completely denied this logic. Whether officially sanctioned by the leadership or not, that campaign put Alba forward as a viable option for getting things done that the party could never be in a position to do. What we appear to be witnessing now is an attempt by leading figures within Alba to move the party’s public perception away from the notion of it being a party-political alternative to the SNP as described earlier to being part of a united effort to force the SNP/Scottish Government to change its approach to the constitutional issue. A move which I personally welcome wholeheartedly. But cautiously.

The beast of tribalism roused in large part by Alba Party’s creation of a second camp for independence supporters is not a creature that will be quieted easily. As can be seen by following any social media ‘discussion’ involving the SNP-loyalist and SNP-sceptical factions, Tribalism begets tribalism beget still more and worse tribalism. What you’ll observe is a tit-for-tat exchange in which pretty much all the participants are tits – in the vernacular sense of that term. Such tribalistic exchanges are self-sustaining and self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing. They take on an existence of their own and are all but totally impervious to any intervention by reason. Those attempting such interventions end up denounced and reviled by both tribes.

It will, I fear, take more than the urging of even such notable figures as Kenny MacAskill and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh to put the tribal beast back in its cage. But I can only applaud the effort. It demonstrates that there is hope for Alba. This change of emphasis suggests a degree of political realism as well as the political maturity we would expect from experienced politicians. Whether it holds promise for Scotland’s cause is another matter. That depends entirely on Alba’s support base. There will doubtless be those who cling to the supermajority myth and the fantasy of effective political power for their new party. They may well regard this change of strategy (if it really is that) as betrayal, while others may see it more as I do – the introduction of a bit of ‘common sense’. That would create an internal rift within Alba. The fission of factionalism proceeds.

Of course, Alba Party remains pointless as a political party. It doesn’t have to be a political party – with all the baggage that entails – in order to function as (part of) a pressure group seeking to kick the collective arse of the SNP leadership and Scottish Government. It is always difficult for membership-based organisations to form alliances with external campaign groups over which they have no control and little influence. Such groups can so easily become the loose cannons which a formal political organisation such as a party cannot tolerate. Not because they’re intolerant but because being formal they have rules which enable their combination and maintain its stability. It’s the rules which make it possible for political parties to speak with one voice. Close association with bodies not bound by those rules is dangerous. All of which might militate against the kind of unity required of the Yes movement.

Only time will tell. But we don’t have much time. I sincerely hope Alba members and supporters realise this and follow the lead offered by Kenny MacAskill and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. The SNP-sceptical faction cannot expect a corresponding initiative from the SNP-loyalist faction because the latter lacks the appropriate leadership. Isn’t that the root of the problem? Alba supporters must make the first move. They must unilaterally disarm, discard abuse and whataboutery.

The success of Alba Party’s transformation from pointless political party to serious political force can be judged by the number of their supporters who respond to this initiative – and/or this article – with yet more repetition of the mindless mantra, “But what about the SNP!?”.

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21 thoughts on “Hope for Alba? Hope from Alba?

  1. “Of course, Alba Party remains pointless as a political party. It doesn’t have to be a political party – with all the baggage that entails – in order to function as (part of) a pressure group seeking to kick the collective arse of the SNP leadership and Scottish Government.”

    Agreed. Alba can best help the independence cause by being another strong pressure group. The SNP leadership definitely needs a kicking to point it in the right direction. But how do we do that without upsetting the “St Nicola can do no wrong” brigade?

    Well, we could just stop singling out Nicola Sturgeon and focus criticism on the “SNP leadership” or, if that’s still too radical for SNP loyalists, we can use the phrase “pro-indy politicians”. That would mean including the Greens so SNP snowflakes wouldn’t be able to complain [too much].

    I think I’ll use “pro-indy politicians” from now on. The erse-kicking remains essential though.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Tactics and language need to be worked on, as you suggest. But soo long as we are clear about and focused on the objective – #DissolveTheUnion – the tactics and language will follow. Some of it will be wrong. But hopefully enough of it will be right to get the job done. And, of course, I’m always here to point the errors and the right direction. For all the good that has ever done!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But the most important thing is, you, and innovative people like you, continue to battle on. When the blessed day arrives you will rightly receive eternal credit for all your efforts in helping to restore Scotland’s independence.

        You’re doing more good than you realise.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Not sure of the value of yet another pressure group. Now Scotland isn’t exactly setting the place on fire. The SNP managed to ignore AUOB without much effort or negative impact.

      Some sort of leverage is required, however. If you don’t represent a threat to the SNP then nothing will change. They’ll continue to ask for a section 30 order, Boris will continue to say no and the voters will continue to vote SNP and we’ll go round in circles forever.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. That is my feeling. This reads too much like a long-winded way of saying wheeshtforindy.

        And the objections that drove so many long-term, committed members to leave the SNP go much further than the leadership.

        I’m prepared to vote for all the SNP MPs and MSPs who spoke out publicly against the treatment of Alex Salmond, Mark Hirst, Craig Murray, Joan McAlpine, Joanna Cherry…

        All those who insisted the equality act be upheld, rather than Stonewall Law…

        The ones who blew the whistle on attempts to reduce internal party democracy…

        Those who’ve insisted that there is financial transparency…

        You see the problem?

        Liked by 7 people

        1. You’ll see the problem if you look in the mirror. If you can’t treat the constitutional question as a stand-alone issue then you are part of the problem. What we are seeking to do in restoring Scotland’s independence is truly extraordinary. The effort cannot be diluted with ‘ordinary’ politics without it becoming inadequate.

          What I’m seeing is people who are desperate for political change throwing away their ability to effect that change to spite the thing they purport to want to change. Madness!


      2. AUOB marches were easy for the SNP/Scottish Government to ignore because the marches and rallies didn’t target them and barely touched them. They were anti-Tory demonstrations more than anything else. With a dozen other protest groups tacked on. For a long, long time I pleaded in vain for the events to address themselves to Sturgeon and Holyrood instead of Johnson and Westminster. They should have been protests against the Union. Despite the Union being central to the whole issue it has been largely ignored by the Yes movement. People were duped into leaving the principle targets untouched. And nobody would be told.

        There is no way to directly threaten the SNP either in Parliament or in electoral terms. As I have shown, Alba Party would have had no leverage whatever even if they had won all the seats they could win. It’s a double-edged sword, anyway. The SNP is in a very, very strong position electorally. It simply isn’t credible that any other party could get itself into a stronger position. The only way to get itself into a position where it would have leverage is by weakening the SNP. But a weakened SNP is less able to provide the massive effective political power required to confront the British state. Alba might get that leverage. But they’d be using it to force the Scottish Government into a fight for which it is not properly equipped.

        In a recent article James Kelly (Scot Goes Pop) made the following observation.

        “… no integral part of a stable democratic state anywhere in western Europe or North America has become independent since the Second World War. (Even going a little further back, the only example I can really think of is Iceland’s independence from Denmark, and that’s a special case given the physical distance between the two countries.) Secession is not part of the ‘normal’, ‘safe’ political process as it’s practised by statesmen and stateswomen across the democratic world. We should never forget that our political goal is an intensely radical one – bordering on revolutionary. To bring it about will require equally radical thinking about process and strategy. Staying within the normal ‘safe’, ‘mature’ parameters means staying within the United Kingdom – it’s as simple as that.”

        This is just another – and very forceful – way of saying something I’ve been saying for many years. As James says, we need radical thinking and extraordinary methods. What he doesn’t say, but certainly implies, is that we also need an extraordinary government and national leadership. We will need a government that is much more powerful in a number of significant ways than we would normally be comfortable with. We will need a government with a safe working parliamentary majority and a massive popular mandate. We need a government that is not vulnerable to any kind of leverage because it can’t be both vulnerable and as strong as we need it to be.

        The whole Alba project is ill-thought. It is, as James Kelly puts it, conceived “within the normal ‘safe’, ‘mature’ parameters” of British party politics. It is thinking in terms of electoral threats and parliamentary arithmetic. That’s the opposite of what we need. Like it or not, we need to concentrate all the strength of the Yes movement through the party of government. Like it or not, that’s the SNP and it isn’t going to be anything other than the SNP until many years after it is too late.

        The 2021 Scottish Parliament election could have been the independence election. It wasn’t. Another opportunity was missed through narrow-minded, short-sighted stupidity. And we’re all to blame – not just the SNP. Alba Party and the entire Yes movement has to shoulder responsibility for their failure to engage in the truly radical political thinking that Scotland’s predicament demands.

        That chance having been squandered, the task of restoring Scotland’s independence has become more difficult. We have to change the approach being taken by the incumbent First Minister and her government rather than ensuring they had adopted a fresh approach prior to the election. We have to force the government to do something which can be presented as being beyond its mandate.

        From what I observe, the Yes movement is not within an astronomical distance of being ready for that task.

        I should finish this overlong response there. But I anticipate being asked what the Yes movement should be doing right now. Which is fucking annoying because I’m being asked to provide a solution to a problem that I sought avoid precisely because of its level of difficulty. But the answer would seem to be numbers. A mass of people all sending the same message to the Scottish Government by whatever means are available. Public demonstrations at Holyrood with not a single antiTory banner to be seen but plenty of banners inscribed with the demand for action to end the Union.

        But given that it is impossible to get the Yes movement to adopt a common hashtag such as #DissolveTheUnion (because it is already established), so the chances of organising mass anything are pretty remote.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t doubt the claims to support independence. The problem lies in the policy baggage these politicians bring into the constitutional arena. And some very inadequate thinking. When, for example, a politician actually believes that ‘we’ve never being closer to independence’ then that delusions politician can hardly be expected to contribute to an effective strategy to restore independence.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I do. Just as the Labour Party of old believed that socialism had been achieved by electing working class members to Westminster, there are some supporters of Scottish independence who seriously believe that the cause is advanced simply by having an SNP government at Hollyrood. The SNP is the very archetype of safe establishment party political game playing. Too many in the independence movement have not thought things through properly to the inevitable revolutionary nature of actual Scottish autonomy – conflict with the British State. If everything were polite and friendly, if Westminster were benevolent, if people were well informed and in command of reason, then Scotland would already be independent.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. “to move the party’s public perception away from the notion of it being a party-political alternative to the SNP as described earlier to being part of a united effort to force the SNP/Scottish Government to change its approach to the constitutional issue.”

    I am probably unusual in this, but this was what I felt Alba was all about from the start. Despite criticism of the SNP, I felt it should use the electoral system to augment the independence voice at Hollyrood. As predicted by many, it became another faction, but I feel that this has less to do with anything in particular than the traditional Scottish tendency to pick fights in empty rooms, always to find a scapegoat to blame for what goes wrong.

    Perhaps in time the function of Alba as a political party (rather than another yes pressure group) will become more useful. I don’t see the current SNP government changing its tune much for the foreseeable and Alba may pick up more members as a consequence. Which will do no more of course than divide the movement further.

    I’m still looking for reasons why it’s not shite being involved in any way at all in Scottish politics 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scottish politics, like all politics, is only shite because it involves people. Because people are shite. But we have to do politics despite the stench. It’s as much in our nature as the shitiness.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The failure to consider that the current SNP leadership might not be interested in Scottish Independence baffles me given the events of the last 6 or 7 yrs.


  4. From that article in the National:

    This is not acceptable to the majority of voters who supported pro-independence parties and cannot be allowed to continue.

    Alba got 1.66% of the vote on the List, with Indy at about 50% overall, that’s 3.33% of Indy supporters.

    If Alba are wanting to be taken seriously they need to stop trying to pretend they fully represent the “majority of voters who supported pro-independence parties”. They don’t. They represent 1 in 30 at best.

    As for the SNP, I voted SNP 1 and SNP 2. But they don’t speak for me either, nor would they know what is acceptable to me.

    I think no YES supporter or voter, should be taken for granted by anyone, we’re all individuals.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My last comment disappeared into the ether. Never mind. We have been here before, Peter, on two counts: 1. the foot-draggers held the party in thrall until 2007, and an internecine struggle took place to wrest power from them (and they learned from that, hence the mess we are in now); and, 2. the GRA reform and Hate Crime legislation will be crucial to whether or not we achieve independence this side of the millennium, because the women’s vote is absolutely essential. Without it, the numbers do not stack up. Not at all. Separate the two, and there will be no independence because it is essentially the same people (the foot-draggers and the wokerati) who hold all the aces right now. I don’t know what you’d call it, but I’d call it a very refined form of sadism that keeps promising the earth to supporters and continually lets them down or introduces bone-wearying refights of the same old stuff, both on the subject of foot-dragging and of women’s rights. Without purging the party of these people, we will still be fighting the same fights over and over until the Unionists take over again. The SNP was once where Alba is now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Indy supporters who continue to be obsessed by the much maligned (by some) GRA and HCB are, at best, “foot draggers” when it comes to campaigning for independence. Independence has nothing to do with either bill. It is about ensuring the ability to create (or not) ALL legislation competent to every independent country on Earth comes to Scotland’s Parliament. If every post on Indy is peppered by references to specific personal, subjective obsessions, the cause is doomed.


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