So, despite an election campaign that would have made Mel Gibson himself go ‘guys I think you might want to tone it down a bit?’ Alex Salmond’s Alba party has failed to make any headway in the Scottish elections. Coming away with only 1.7% of the total regional vote, less than 45,000 votes across the country, and only 2.3% of the vote where Salmond was running as MSP, Alba fell far short of what they had aimed to achieve.
It’s hardly surprising that Salmond failed to appeal to the current electorate – recent polling suggests that 74% of Scottish voters now hold an unfavourable view of him. This would make Salmond actually less popular than Boris Johnson among Scottish voters. When you’re less popular in Scotland than the man who described devolution as “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake” in 2020, surely it’s time to pack it in? With an electorate now extended to sixteen and seventeen-year-olds, very few Scottish voters were around in 1314, making Alba’s battle-reenactment-saltire-tie style of campaigning far less popular.
Salmond’s unpopularity also lies, at least in part, with his high-profile March 2020 criminal prosecution. It found him not guilty on 12 counts and not proven on a charge of sexual assault with attempt to rape, but his defence described him as ‘touchy-feely’ in the heat of the #MeToo campaign.
Indeed, Salmond has spent the past two years embroiled in controversy (not that the man who told a female MP to “behave yourself, woman” was ever anyone’s feminist champion). First there was a spat with Nicola Sturgeon which saw the First Minister investigated upon accusations of breaking the Ministerial Code, which she was cleared of. Then there was the £512,250 of public money used to pay off his court fees. There was also the investigation of professional misconduct and resignation of his defence lawyer Gordon Jackson. That came after he named two of Salmond’s accusers on the train, hoping with one that “eventually people might think she’s a flake and not like her”. And recently, Salmond supporter and former diplomat Craig Murray was jailed for 8th months for the repeated violation of a court order protecting the identities of the women who had accused Salmond of sexual assault, with his blog risking the identification of four complainers. Salmond’s response to this is unknown, but it is clear that his supporters have firmly dedicated themselves to a cause that discourages victims of sexual assault from speaking out. In an election that marked great breakthroughs for women – the Scottish parliament electing its first female MSP of colour, and first female wheelchair user – Salmond and his clan were unwanted.
It was not the only reason for the party’s failure. Alba has been offered as an alternative for nationalist voters who aren’t the progressive, young audience Nicola Sturgeon increasingly faces – for those who aren’t sure about all this new-fangled gender self-expression, for example. It’s not hard to see that they aren’t aiming for the progressive vote. Alba candidate Margaret Lynch told the party’s women’s conference that LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall Scotland wanted to “reduce the age of consent to 10 years old”, and Salmond hosts his show (‘The Alex Salmond Show’, in case I’m really selling this man to you and you’d like to see more of him) on RT, the Russian state-owned broadcaster criticised as propaganda for Putin. But even while aiming for a different crowd, Salmond seems to have been hoping for an audience already taken by either SNP or the Scottish Conservatives. The whopping 0 seats gained by Salmond’s party echo the Brexit Party’s 2019 General Election 2% share of the vote, with Alba also accused of bigotry, recently by co-leader of the Scottish Green Party Patrick Harvie’s description of a ‘torrent of homophobic and transphobic abuse’. Salmond’s failure to rouse the support he wanted doesn’t seem to be simply the difficulty of setting up a new party, but of appealing to an audience other than his current small group of loyal supporters.
Well, if nobody else from Scotland is going to talk about it, I suppose I will – what does this mean for Scottish independence? A lack of support for Alba certainly doesn’t mean a lack of support for independence, with the SNP now only a single seat short of a majority government, and the pro-independence Scottish Greens there to fill in the gap. Sturgeon seems ready to go ahead, telling listeners in Glasgow that “given the outcome of this election, there is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our future,” and stating her readiness to take Boris Johnson to court for the right to hold a referendum. Despite Salmond’s concerns that she just won’t quite have the strength to pull it off without him (because what she’s lacking is…a ‘Unite the Clans’ slogan? The support of the Proclaimers? Jokes about having sex with her female colleagues?) the fight for a second independence referendum seems firmly between Sturgeon and Johnson, with Johnson probably helping the independence cause.
So what now? Salmond has just announced that the Alba party will contest next year’s Scottish council elections, saying that “Alba has a role, it has a significance, and that role will develop, grow and bloom over the next few years. Alba is rising.” Is it? Well, I guess that might be true, given that it’s really the only direction in which the party can go, but I certainly hope not. The Scottish people have voted, Alex Salmond is not wanted in the Scottish parliament, we’d rather he kept his opinions to his YouTube channel.
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