Alex Salmond’s new party Alba makes the Scottish independence movement look a shambles

The new party means the SNP can’t move on from the torrid events around the Salmond scandal.

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Alex Salmond, of the Kremlin-backed RT and now something called the Alba Party  quite the CV. The former first minister is handling his post-Bute House career with all the poise of a drunken elephant on ice. The galactic relentlessness of his ego and his need to be centre-stage now casts him firmly as Scotland’s Nigel Farage.

Salmond argues he is attempting to win a “super-majority” for independence, as if he’s out to help his old party. In truth, he’s out to help in the way Vinnie Jones once “helped” Paul Gascoigne. 

Status is everything to Salmond, which means he can’t possibly allow his last big public show to have been as the subject of allegations of sexual assault which threatened to destroy an SNP government, even if he was cleared of the charges in court. He expected his legacy to be visible in the form of statues and buildings bearing his name, and instead ended up before a judge and as a figure of some public contempt.

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Something must be done for reasons of legacy, and so he sees himself as the returning hero, adding his shoulder to the pro-independence wheel and potentially doing enough to get the great cause over the line. 

But from its twee name to its no-hoper status, Alba will only be a distraction. It means the SNP can’t move on from the torrid events around the Salmond scandal. It means the rest of Scotland doesn’t get to either. It prolongs the agony of the women at the centre of the sexual misconduct allegations, and ensures Salmond continues to haunt the scene like a malign, unexorcised ghost.

Alba will, one presumes, be the party that appeals to those who also support Craig Murray, the eccentric former UK ambassador recently convicted of contempt of court for his coverage of the Salmond trial and currently awaiting sentence. It will be the party of Wings Over Scotland, the toxic blogger who has spent months hammering away at Nicola Sturgeon. It will be the party of every unhinged, splenetic cybernat who sees conspiracy on every corner and who thinks Sturgeon is an MI5 plant. 

Standing four candidates in each region across Scotland in May’s parliamentary election, Salmond hopes Holyrood’s partly-proportional voting system will allow some of them to squeeze through – the better the SNP does in the first-past-the-post section of the vote, the less well it will do in the list section. Salmond argues a small fringe party like his can bump up the number of pro-independence MSPs and the parliamentary majority in favour of a second referendum.

It all shows a Yes movement that has broken into fragments, riven with animosity and division, its key players no longer on speaking terms. For those voters who have yet to be convinced of the case for Scottish independence, the whole thing looks like an utter, unsupportable shambles.

[see also: Salmond vs Sturgeon, in praise of the Oxford vaccine and why we must cherish Melvyn Bragg]

Chris Deerin is the New Statesman's Scotland editor.

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