At last! Fully a year after I started asking questions about how Alba Party intended to honour the terms of its 2021 manifesto – far less live up to the overblown rhetoric of its more ‘enthusiastic’ devotees – someone giving the impression of speaking with some authority for the party has attempted some kind of response. But let’s not get too carried away. It’s a truly pathetic effort by James “Creepy” Kelly which doesn’t answer any of the pertinent questions. Other than the one about whether Alba devotees are delusional. A question which James answers loudly and clearly in the affirmative.
Disappointingly, the ‘Scot Goes Pffft’ blogger makes no effort to address the points raised in two articles published here and here in April 2021 – just prior to the Scottish Parliamentary elections in which Alba was duly relieved of the need to do any of the things it had promised to do by an electorate which mostly just ignored them. Doubtless, many voters simply didn’t hear the good news of Alex Salmond’s ‘second coming’. Many more were surely put off by Alba’s appalling election campaign strategy. Which was basically to stridently insist that anybody who didn’t vote for them was either too stupid to understand the voting system or they were closet British Nationalists. More than a few voters, I suspect, ignored Alba Party because they’d worked out for themselves what a skipload of dishonesty, deceit and delusion the party’s offering was. As described in those two articles. The ones which still haven’t been rebutted by any Alba Party representative.
Reading James Kelly’s purported attempt to explain the point of Alba, I was first struck by the amateurish way in which he sets up a straw-man misrepresentation of my views – while dishonestly claiming to know me – using fake quotes. Just to be clear, I have never said any of the things the lying wee shite claims I said. As anyone who actually reads my articles knows, I am not in the habit of using absolute terms – such as ‘impossible’ – absent caution and qualification. The same goes for terms like ‘never’ and ‘only’. When you encounter someone quoting me as having stated “Alba will never be in government!” (my emphasis) you may be certain that you are dealing with a liar.
It would be a very much greater fool than I who might make such a statement. It is not impossible that Alba might one day be the party of government in Scotland. It is perfectly possible to imagine this. The difference between myself and delusional Alba devotees is that I don’t suppose a thing must happen just because I can imagine it happening. A thing may be theoretically possible if one makes all favourable assumptions, yet be effectively impossible if one makes only the most reasonable assumptions. The point about Alba Party’s 2021 election offering was that it was possible only if one assumed things were other than they are. Alba’s plans and promises are credible only if one disregards hard reality. Again, I refer you to those earlier articles in which I go into specifics on this matter.
The aspect of reality that James Kelly chooses to disregard as he refutes claims not made by me is time. This blithe discounting of time is a ubiquitous feature of Alba Party rhetoric. He also denies political reality. But that may be a matter of perspective. Not so time. Time is real. The electoral cycle is real. That elections to the Scottish Parliament happen only every five years – other than in extraordinary circumstances – is an inescapable fact. I should say almost inescapable. Because it is a fact that Alba devotees escape with apparent ease. What this means is that when considering the matter of Alba Party becoming the party of government we must work in multiples of five years. As the miracle Alba ‘calculated’ as being readily realised didn’t happen last year, the countdown on them taking power does not start until 2026. After which the clock ticks once every 60 months.
It is not impossible for a political party to go from zero to hero in the space of a single electoral cycle. The question is whether it is sufficiently possible that we might proceed on the basis of it happening. Would it be rational to proceed on the basis that Alba Party will achieve the aims it set out in its 2021 election manifesto? That is what they want us to do. What they most certainly don’t want is for us to question how realistic those aims are. To do so elicits from Alba devotees the same vituperative denunciation as would be expected from SNP loyalists if anybody expresses doubts regarding ‘Nicola’s Great Secret Plan’. Delusion sits beside fantasy like the proverbial peas in a pod.
According to James Kelly at least, Alba Party has retreated somewhat from the more grandiose assertions and notions contained in its 2021 manifesto. Although to the best of my knowledge that document continues to be the definitive official statement of the party’s policies and positions. Where a year ago the talk was of a ‘supermajority’ and forcing an extraordinary election and making that election substitute for a referendum, now the aim is rather more modest.
Alba doesn’t need to become the largest party or even get anywhere close to that. All it has to do is gain a significant enough percentage of support – which could be as little as 4% or 5% of the vote – to force the SNP to start looking over its shoulder and consider what it needs to do to get those votes back, or to prevent any further slippage. Almost inevitably, any action taken would have to involve greater radicalism and urgency on independence. And as soon as we have a Scottish Government that is coaxed into serious action to bring independence about, Alba’s primary objective is achieved.Alba absolutely *can* help to achieve independence – but not in monastic isolation from other pro-indy parties
That’s all it takes! That’s all! We may be thankful that James didn’t tack a “Simples!” onto the end of that paragraph. The problem, of course, is that it is not that simple at all. Even this toned-down version of the Alba miracle doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Which is why Alba devotees work so hard trying to deter such scrutiny. It fails on the two counts previously mentioned – time and political reality.
Alba Party’s ‘plan’ assumes we can afford to wait until the next Holyrood election in 2026 before acting to dissolve the Union and restore Scotland”s independence. Or maybe the election after that. Or perhaps the one after that. Or whenever Alba achieves the level of electoral support which James Kelly theorises will be sufficient to force the hand of the SNP. Assuming the SNP is the party of government. Which in relation to the earlier of those future elections is among the safer of the assumptions we might make.
What James takes absolutely no account of is what the British state will be doing while we wait for Alba to gain enough electoral support to have some influence. Perhaps the safest of all assumptions is that the British state will be doing everything in its not inconsiderable power to ensure that the Union is preserved and that Scotland’s independence is never restored. My view, as opposed to what James Kelly asserts as my view – is that we cannot afford to proceed on the basis of an assumption that there will ever again be an election to the Scottish Parliament as we know it. I am firmly persuaded that we must expect that the British will act before 2026 to ensure that all democratic routes to the restoration of Scotland’s independence are permanently closed. The Union affords them the power to do this. We should proceed on the basis that they will, rather than on the dangerously naive assumption that they won’t.
I can hear the chorus of Alba devotees screeching that I’ve forgotten the imminent local elections. I haven’t, of course. But I don’t expect miracles. Looking at the situation rationally we must first of all question the likelihood of Alba Party gaining the “4% or 5% of the vote” that James Kelly hopes for and considers adequate. The answer to that is who the hell knows? They might. They might not. It is not impossible. In fact, it is a far from unrealistic prospect. Especially if there is a significant amount of tactical voting by Unionists trying to keep the SNP out.
The second question we must ask is whether gaining 4% or 5% of the vote might have the effect that James Kelly and other Alba devotees hope for. A hope I would happily share. Contrary to what some might imagine, I harbour no particular antipathy towards Alba Party. If they could force the SNP’s hand on the constitutional issue I would be delighted. It’s not that I wouldn’t want them to do this. Far from it. The problem is that they have utterly failed to convince me that they can do it. Nobody from Alba has persuaded me that their ‘plan’ is feasible. Given the nonsense of their ‘supermajority’ myth, I have absolutely no reason to have any confidence in them. James Kelly isn’t doing anything to allay my doubts. Or, for that matter, to address my actual concerns. Although he does a fair to middling job of hacking down his own straw man.
I ask the questions James Kelly neglects to ask. Why would the SNP be troubled by Alba taking four or five per cent of the vote in the Council elections? Why would this bring about the change in Sturgeon’s approach to the constitutional issue when all else has failed to do so? How would Alba translate that relatively tiny vote in the almost wholly irrelevant (to the constitutional issue) local elections into a lever with which to move the Scottish Government?
We have the strange situation at the moment where the SNP is simultaneously less powerful/secure than we need it to be and more powerful/secure than we want it to be. Not so powerful as to have no excuse for failing to challenge the British state. Too secure to be susceptible to any pressure. As Jonathon Shafi is reported to have observed,
Influence campaigns on the SNP leadership have failed. No matter what the party conference votes for, the organisation is so centralised that those kind of influence campaigns, generally speaking, don’t deliver in the end.
What rational reason is there to suppose that the SNP leadership would buckle under the weight of a 5% vote for Alba in the local elections? Does Nicola Sturgeon look like she might be impressed by this?
My assessment is that it would have no effect whatever on the issue at hand – restoring Scotland’s independence. The SNP would sail on like a super-tanker rammed by a dinghy. James Kelly would no doubt retort that the SNP would be bound to worry that they might lose 5% to Alba in the next Holyrood election. Again, I ask the question he neglects to ask. Why would they worry? The results of local elections imply little or nothing for voting in general elections. Besides which, the SNP has a trump card to play that will put Alba right out of contention. A referendum! Something Alba cannot sensibly promise. A certain success for Alba in the council elections might even suit the SNP. If the British parties end up with control of more local authorities then we can be sure Alba will be blamed. Whether they are culpable or not is irrelevant. If they can be portrayed vividly enough as the culprits then enough of the mud will stick to do some damage to Alba’s prospects in the 2026 Scottish Parliament election.
The SNP will not be unduly concerned about any potential threat from Alba in 2026. In part because of the polling which puts the SNP in an almost unassailable position. But also because of the constitutional issue. The SNP leadership knows that one way or another, the constitutional issue is going to be off the electoral table by 2026. Alba will have lost its principal raison d’etre. The constitutional issue will be off the table either because the British establishment has knocked it off or because the SNP has taken it off. To all appearances, the SNP leadership is as oblivious to the British Nationalist juggernaut bearing down on Scotland as Alba is. In one breath Alba tells us independence is a matter of the greatest urgency. In the next, they tell us we have to wait until they’re in a position to actually do something. Which might well be never! The SNP, meanwhile, evinces no sense of urgency whatsoever. They tell us effectively that we must wait until there’s nothing else of any significance happening anywhere in the world. Even then, we have to wait until they’ve concocted some magical ‘message’ which will clinch it for Yes. Meanwhile, we wait while the British government does all the work for us – in theory!
That’s a helluva lot of waiting for something that is supposedly regarded as urgent. And neither Alba nor the SNP is offering anything other than waiting. A pox on both their tribes!
The main reason the SNP is confident that the constitutional issue will be off the table by 2026 is that they fully intend to take it off the table themselves before then. They intend to have a referendum in late 2023 or maybe early 2024. The trouble is that in order to be seen to have kept her promise of a referendum while avoiding the confrontation with the British state to which she is so strongly averse, Nicola Sturgeon will grace us with some kind of ‘consultative’ referendum that decides nothing but which means the issue is off the agenda for at least a couple of electoral cycles.
For all James Kelly’s huffing and puffing and waffling, there is still no credible explanation of what Alba Party might do to bring independence so much as one day closer. To those of us who examine the matter closely and dispassionately, Alba Party remains an irrelevant distraction. It remains a fact that action is needed now. It remains a fact that only the Scottish Government can initiate the process in the Scottish Parliament by which Scotland’s independence is restored. It remains a fact that only the SNP is and can be the party of government for the period of time which matters. In all of this, Alba Party is nowhere to be seen. Nor are they likely to be. Realistically speaking.
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