Alex Salmond’s political career has ended in ignominy, again. The Alba Party, which the former First Minister launched six weeks ago, has not secured enough of the regional list vote share to win a seat in the Scottish parliament. Salmond has not been able to secure a route back to political office, and his new party looks likely to disappear without a trace.
Nicola Sturgeon has more than one reason to be happy with this result. It means that her party has avoided the electoral damage that some feared Alba might wreak (if not by directly winning votes off the SNP, then by making the independence movement look distracted and divided), and that her former mentor has been denied the political comeback he wanted, and will be unable to act as a thorn in her side from the Holyrood benches.
But the result is even better news for the First Minister than is immediately apparent. Thanks to Alba, some of Sturgeon’s most vocal critics are no longer SNP members, and have not been admitted to the Scottish parliament. That not only applies to Salmond, but to Chris McEleny, a prominent Salmond ally and SNP councillor who had been due to stand for the SNP on the West of Scotland list in these elections, but who left the party to stand for Alba instead. Kenny MacAskill, one of Sturgeon’s most vocal critics and the MP for East Lothian, surrendered the SNP whip to stand for Alba, and won’t be able to win re-election as an SNP MP, even if he remains in parliament until the next general election. The same applies for a number of Sturgeon’s greatest critics: they are no longer members of the SNP and won’t be readmitted.
If Salmond had set out to give his rival a way to purge the members of her party who cause her the most trouble, he could not have designed it better.