What’s the point?

Alex Salmond is correct, of course. Having, to date, done absolutely nothing to progress Scotland’s cause for the entirety of her incumbency as First Minister and SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon would be hard-pressed to have everything in place for a referendum in September(?) 2023. If the intention is to prepare an updated version of Scotland’s Future – the prospectus for the 2014 referendum – then work should probably have started at least a year ago. Ideally, a team would have been task with keeping the prospectus under continuous review. Evidently, this didn’t occur to Ms Sturgeon. And if it crossed the mind of any of the few people who have her ear then – discretion being the better part of valour – they decided to keep quiet about it, or if the were gallus enough to broach the subject with The Boss, they were ignored.

We already know that the SNP/Scottish Government has done precisely no work whatever on planning and preparations for a new referendum. So Alex Salmond is telling us nothing new here. I don’t know about anyone else, but my own capacity for being shocked by Sturgeon’s failures and failings as de facto leader of Scotland’s independence movement has long since worn to a nub. My patience with Alex Salmond’s posturing is headed the same way. The idea that Alba Party might be invited into the fold if and when preliminary work on a new referendum campaign gets under way looks pretty preposterous at the moment. A glance at the below-the-line comments on any story in The National which mentions either Salmond or his new party makes it clear that – to whatever extent the antics of their respective supporters is any guide – the state of relations between Alba and the SNP is dire and deteriorating.

I decline to join in the playground-level jibes and taunts which appears to be the only form of communication between the two tribes. However, I can’t help but think of Salmond as ‘The Great Pretender’. He pretends he and his party are some kind of alternative to the SNP in some less trivial way than a home for bitterly disaffected SNP members and supporters. Of whom, it must be said, there is a significant number. He allows that “it is incumbent on the party of government to lead the charge and get on with the job”. What he chooses not to mention is that ONLY the party of government can do this. If you’re not the party of government, you’re nothing. Salmond doesn’t like being nothing. So he pretends. He pretends to a role in Scotland’s cause which he simply cannot have. And cannot possibly achieve in the small and shrinking window of opportunity before the British state effectively locks Scotland into a Union on whatever terms best serve the interests of Boris’s new ‘Great Britain’.

Perhaps more importantly, Salmond pretends to a radical approach to the constitutional issue that just doesn’t exist. As moderately astute observers will have noted, he criticises – with ample justification – the SNP/Scottish Government’s seven years of failing to keep alongside the constitutional issue never mind on top of it. He quite properly condemns not merely a lack, but a total absence of any planning or preparation for a second referendum. But at no time does he question what kind of preparation must be done. Nor does he have anything ‘radical’ to say about the form of the referendum itself. He slips as easily as Sturgeon does into the assumptions that the new referendum should be as far as is possible a repeat of the first one. Not a new referendum at all. More a rerun of the 2014 process replicating every significant detail.

If Alba Party was half as radical as its devotees like to pretend then Salmond would be adding his voice to those demanding that Sturgeon rethink her entire approach to the constitutional issue. Reframe it. Change everything – starting with the question. Because the question determines the form of the campaign.

Get past the pretence and what do we find? Not only is it infeasible for Alba Party to play any role in the fight to restore Scotland’s independence beyond what any large Yes group might be capable of, even if it could do more what it would do wouldn’t be at all different from what Sturgeon and the SNP is proposing to do.

This pretence is a problem. It is a problem because Scotland’s cause urgently needs a more radical, assertive approach. Many people now see this need. But most of them have been persuaded that Alba Party fills that need. It doesn’t! What Alba does is soak up and neutralise the efforts of those who might otherwise be devising a genuinely radical approach to the constitutional issue.

“Scotland’s independence is bigger than any one party, this was a key lesson we learned in 2014,” say Alex Salmond. Which may be true. Although it is certainly true that this was the constant cry of every group that wanted to hitch its agenda to Scotland’s cause. But we might well wonder what is the point of bringing forward other parties, organisations and groups to stand by the SNP up at the sharp end if they don’t bring with them any fresh thinking.

We might well wonder what is the point of Alba Party.

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11 thoughts on “What’s the point?

  1. A harsh assessment for which you are to be thanked. The Alba Party might be an uphill struggle but it at least shows there is determination to push the issue. Let me turn the question around and ask where would we be if the Alba Party did not exist?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alba has made no difference. It may have added to the difficulty of getting the result we needed from the 2021 Holyrood election. But that was always going to be difficult anyway.

      You ask the wrong question, anyway. You should ask what what good Alba has done. In what way has the independence cause benefitted from Alba’s existence? There’s nothing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. That’s the question and so far the answer is at best not much.

        Normally, I would say, well give them time, they haven’t existed for a full year yet, but the window of opportunity may be rapidly closing. While the Scottish Indy parties are sitting on their arses waiting for IndyRef2 and the support needed to win it to fall out a tree, Johnson and his unionist comrades are assuredly not waiting passively for events to unfold.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am not sure I have totally bought into your writing on Alba to this point. The Alba Party, I think, has a purpose if it holds the SNP’s feet to the fire on all matters related to independence. That would involve coming up with new thinking and pushing the issue forward aggressively. If that’s not happening then the party is a waste of space or worse if it does the opposite by sapping away what little energy there was left. Scotland appears damned by politicians that quite like the cozy life. They utter a few nice words here and there to keep to their respective supporters on board but otherwise do sweet fuck all.

    I don’t think it’s entirely the fault of the politicians. The electorate seems quite happy to let them get away with it. We have a thoroughly corrupt and incompetent party running the UK, a UK opposition that doesn’t know its arse from its elbow, no chance of any serious reform of the UK’s institutions and in the meanwhile the economy is being trashed in every way imaginable and the last shards of British democracy are having a six foot hole dug for them. Yes, the SNP should be out making hay while the sun shines (and they are not) but what the hell are half the bloody population thinking that they need persuading that leaving this corrupt and incompetent shit hole (literally in some parts of the UK) is a good idea? Where’s the bloody outrage?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. How? That cliché about feet and fire gets repeated endlessly by Alba devotees. But don’t ask them how Alba will do this unless you want to be the target of some idiotic abuse.

      It’s fantasy politics to imagine Alba is coming to the rescue. The party has no power, no influence and no leverage. The only asset it has is Alex Salmond. He is good for a bit of media attention. But for him, Alba would be invisible. This is the political reality that Alba devotees refuse to face. Just as Sturgeon/SNP loyalists refuse to acknowledge their hero’s total failure to progress Scotland’s cause.

      That’s where the Yes movement is at the moment. Torn between two tribes of deluded people fighting over whose delusion is THE ONE TRUTH. Meanwhile, the British Nationalist spider just get on with wrapping its prey ready to be devoured at leisure.

      Is it any wonder people like myself are daily stepping back from the collective idiocy that has overtaken the Yes movement? It’s not even correct to call it a movement any more. I’m not sure what the appropriate term is. But I know it’s nothing flattering.


      1. ‘ It’s not even correct to call it a movement any more. I’m not sure what the appropriate term is. ‘

        A fig-leaf club for people who can’t really be arsed campaigning for improvements in the here and now and are obsessed by a trope?

        The last sentence is a summary of all Scottish politics in 2021.

        I doubt that anyone seriously believes that a wonderful education/health/redistribution/whatever policy will come about because 50 MPs got sacked and different sheets got strung up flagpoles. In the meantime, anything the Scottish government touches turns to shit.


  3. Tune into Dr Mark McNaught’s Building the Scottish State or Barrhead Boy’s Through a Scottish Prism with guest Professor Alfie Baird who is not big on having a Referendum. Other independents are starting to think along the same lines. We should exit the Treaty Of Union now appears to be the favoured route. Personally I don’t see Sturgeon having a Referendum in 2023. By then it’ll be 9 years wasted.


    1. I know the first two quite well. I’ve worked with Mark before and guested on Barrhead Boy’s podcast at least twice. Although I tend not to be asked to speak anywhere these days. I make people uncomfortable.

      I’m also well aware of Professor Baird’s work. And I’m largely in agreement with his thinking. Which is unsurprising as I have been arguing for something similar since 2015.

      The trouble is, none of it means shit unless the SNP is on board. The election in May was the time to pile the pressure on. But most of the Yes movement wasn’t interested in doing the one thing that could change the game. They were all away playing various pointless games. We are where we are – in deep shut – because that is what the biggest part of the Yes movement chose. They knew the problem with the SNP. But they chose to do nothing about it.

      That’s one of the main reasons folk like myself are sick of the whole thing. It is blindingly obvious what is needed. But there’s only a relative handful of activists who have avoided the tribalism trap. And there’s really nothing we can do.

      History will recount this time as the period of Scotland’s greatest tragedy since the Union.


  4. ‘What is the point of the Alba Party?’

    Eh… A vehicle for Alex Salmond’s ego?

    At the last Holyrood election, Alba spent a lot of effort campaigning for….. the SNP…… Which was confusing.


  5. I always like your radical thinking Peter and I totally agree that another referendum will be a total waste of time if fought on the same grounds as the first.

    My main concern is that we, as voters are being driven down a dead end road by the supposed party of independence (SNP). We have no alternative and if you are correct that Alba are of the same mind to re-run the 2014 campaign and having learned no lessons then we are truly fecked.

    Like yourself, I’ve just about given up on the hope that we will see anything change in the foreseeable future and we have a first minister who has shackled the independence movement to a phantom S30 that will never be delivered.

    Reading Iain Lawson’s blog earlier I came across the below from a Dr Mark McNaught which I think is the only road we now have open to us. If only we had a leadership with the balls to take the idea forward.



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