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EWAN GURR: The simple mistakes that leave Alex Salmond’s Alba Party facing oblivion

Alex Salmond cuts a forlorn figure during the Scottish Parliament election count in Aberdeen in May.

I have always had a decent instinct when judging the political temperature or calling the outcome of elections and referenda, even when polls have pointed elsewhere.

However, one recent political phenomenon which caught me completely unaware was the return of Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond to the stage.

Now, of course, Alba’s arrival in May could hardly be described as a success but with two members of parliament and 15 councillors, the question has to be asked: do they have a future in Scottish politics?

The reason for doubting a Salmond return dates back to conversations he and I had in 2014 when I invited him to open a foodbank in his own constituency in Inverurie just weeks before the referendum.

As much as I was aware the momentum was with Yes, I never thought victory was within reach.

‘How fatigued he looked’

I asked what Mr Salmond would do if he lost and, while he was optimistic a win was still in sight, he did say his wife Moira was encouraging him to call it a day to full-time politics.

Less than a year after the referendum, Mr Salmond was elected as the SNP MP for Gordon – hardly a backward step.

Two years later he lost his seat and less than a year later the allegations of sexual misconduct came to light.

When I saw how fatigued he looked during the trial and giving evidence at Holyrood, I simply could not imagine him ever making a return.

One of Salmond’s greatest strengths is his unpredictability if not his integrity.
It stinks when MPs defect without showing respect to their constituents and calling a by-election.

When leading Ukip in 2014, Nigel Farage at least made sure two defecting Conservative members held by-elections and both were successfully re-elected.

However, when elected members like Chuka Umunna, Sam Gyimah and Anna Soubry do not consult their electors, they are always given short shrift.

I believe this is the fate that awaits Alba.

‘Will disappear like snow off a dyke’

A good leader would have urged Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey to do the right thing by calling by-elections.

Had they done so, they would have turned the eyes of the UK media upon their constituencies and stood a decent chance of re-election.

Come the next election, I am certain we will see Alba lose their two members of Parliament and, additionally, Alba’s 15 councillors, who were all elected on an SNP ticket in 2017, will disappear like snow off a dyke in May.

At the Alba Party conference in September, they passed no fewer than 20 motions on everything from strengthening Scotland’s institutions to reforming council tax, reducing drug deaths and addressing the council funding problems.

Slightly more contentious were proposals to extend the vaccination to young people as a matter of urgency, despite widespread concerns from parents, and plans to decriminalise the sale of sex as part of a Scottish model for legislation on prostitution.

There was also undue criticism of the Scottish Government’s “failure” to implement the full range of social security powers.

However, there was no recognition of the fact the only reason disability benefits like DLA and PIP were delayed in Scotland’s social security system was due to Covid-19.

Possibly the most pitiful motion was the last one on Scotland’s place in the world in which they pledge to weld Scotland back to the EU and erect a border between our greatest trading partner. Remarkable.

There is a buoyancy within Alba as they describe themselves as “Scotland’s fastest growing party” but that will change if they fail to elect any councillors in May, lose those councillors who defected and then watch their two MPs be dispensed with in 2024, unless Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls an election sooner than that.

It’s hard to maintain political momentum having lost all your elected members.

Does Alba have a political future? I suspect not.