May weaken dominance of SNP
By Ricky Browne
Former Scottish chief minister Alex Salmond had some great news for people who hope to see the United Kingdom remain a united kingdom, as he launched a new Scottish independence party.
The new party is called Alba, which is an ancient name for the Kingdom of Scotland. It is actually the Scottish Gaelic name– not well known by many people. The party is running on a pro-independence platform
“Today Alba are hoisting a flag in the windl” Salmond said in a press conference on Friday. The symbol for the party is the Scottish flag representing the cross of St Andrew, known as the saltire, which is a part of the Union Jack.
“We will see how many will rally to our standard,” he said.
He says with his new party he will be attempting to get a “supermajority” for independence along with the SNP
Salmond says that the party will not be running against the SNP in the upcoming parliamentary elections on the constituency level, and would instead be running only in the regional level with at least four candidates.
Salmond himself will stand as one of the candidates in the North East seat.
Scottish Gaelic is a dying language. According to the 2011 Census, the total number of people recorded as being able to speak and/or read and/or understand Gaelic was 87,056. But the number of people who could actually speak Gaelic was lower – about 58,000 people or 1.1 percent of the population. That was 1,000 less people than the 59,000 in the 2001.
That compares to Wales, where it is estimated that 217,000 people speak Welsh as their first language. Overall, the number who speak it is much larger – estimated to be about 861,700 people, or about 28.5 percent of the population.
But speaking a language that no one else speaks isn’t necessarily an indication of how badly people want independence – luckily for ALBA.
Recent polls have suggested that more than 50 percent of Scots now want to break free from the United Kingdom.
But this move by Salmond could help to weaken that as ALBA could take away votes in the upcoming May 6 election from the Scottish National Party, which is currently ahead in the polls.
The SNP was previously headed by Salmond, who was also Scotland’s chief minister. But he stepped down in 2014 after the party lost the independence referendum in 2014. His deputy Sturgeon took over as head of the party and chief minister, and has seen her popularity grow, especially with her handling of the pandemic.
Salmond and Sturgeon previously had a very strong relationship, but have completely fallen out, after the former chief minister was cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault in 2019.
He then attacked Sturgeon of plotting against him and falsely trying to send him to prison.
For a while it looked like Sturgeon could be found to have misled the parliament, which would have been grounds for her to step down. But, fortunately for her, an independent inquiry found that she had not actually done that, so she has been able to hold onto power.
That’s it in a nutshell.
But Salmond is not satisfied to let it sit there. By setting up this new party on Friday (March 26) he may well pull away votes from Sturgeon’s SNP – making it less likely that the party will have the impressive win it desires to push for a new independence referendum.
The Conservatives and indeed Labour party supporters must be rubbing their hands in glee, as Scottish independence supporters turn on each other.
Meanwhile, there may also be some benefit in how well the United Kingdom as a whole has been handling the pandemic, compared to its neighbours in the European Union. With more than 29 million people vaccinated, representing more than 50 percent of the population, many people in the UK can breathe a sigh of relief.
But the same cannot be said for the EU, which is still struggling to get jabs in arms, and which is now suffering a third wave of the pandemic. Its attempts to lock down the export of vaccines to the UK will put a bitter taste in the mouths of many Scots who may have been considering independence with a quick re-entry to the EU.
Unsurprisingly, the SNP came out with a statement that was not in support of the new party.
“At this time of crisis, the interests of the country must come first and should not be obscured by the self-interest of someone who shows no sign whatsoever of reflecting on serious concerns about his own conduct concerns which, to put it mildly, raise real questions about the appropriateness of a return to public office,” said an SNP spokesman.
So, it’s still early days – but these two developments may be enough to weaken Scottish feelings on independence – and the Union, while not as strong as it could be, can perhaps live to fight another day.