Former Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond announced on Friday that he was launching a new party, the Alba Party, ahead of the Holyrood election in May.
The announcement comes after a year of legal arguments and political intrigues following Salmond’s acquittal at the High Court in Edinburgh on charges of attempted rape and sexual assault.
During the court proceedings, Salmond admitted to appalling behaviour towards a number of women.
That should be enough for socialists to give no support to Alba.
The allegations against Salmond drove a wedge between him and, his former close ally, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Salmond’s announcement comes at a time of growing frustration at the SNP's timid approach to independence. That discontent has found expression in the massive All Under One Banner demonstrations and the new grassroots membership organisation Now Scotland.
Current SNP strategy, if a pro-independence majority is elected in the Scottish Parliament, is to bring forward a bill to hold an independence referendum—indyref2. The expectation is that this will be refused by Boris Johnson’s government and the courts.
The SNP remains wedded to a constitutional route and playing by the rules of the British state.
Salmond’s party might attract some of the people who have become disenchanted with that position.
Salmond has already been joined by left wing MP Kenny MacAskill, who has defected to the Alba Party from the SNP. Also giving backing is former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan.
The Action for Independence group which included Sheridan has, effectively, dissolved itself into Salmond’s new party.
Any socialist who follows their lead is going down a nationalist dead end.
Salmond shows no sign, for example, of differing from Sturgeon on the constitutional approach to indyref2.
His new party has much more to do with his own personal standing and rivalries with leading figures in the SNP than it does with any fundamental political differences.
One sign of that is Salmond calling on his supporters to still vote for the SNP in the constituency section of the election. Alba is standing only in the list seats where around 6 percent of the vote is enough to win an MSP under the proportional representation voting system.
The SNP remains wedded to a constitutional route and playing by the rules of the British state
Disgracefully, some of Salmond’s supporters criticise the Sturgeon leadership not just on independence but also oppose the Gender Recognition Act reform to increase trans rights. Others have sought to expose and attack the women who came forward against Salmond.
Any radicalism that Salmond ever had has been left long in the past.
In the early 1980s, he was briefly expelled from the SNP for his membership of the 79 Group, a left wing and republican faction.
Following his readmission to the party, Salmond moved consistently to the right, dropping any commitment he previously had to socialism or republicanism.
Salmond turned the SNP into an electoral machine that managed to appear left of centre on issues such as free NHS prescriptions and the abolition of university tuition fees.
However, at the same time, the party has been absolutely committed to pro-business, pro-capitalist policies.
Sturgeon’s strategy as first minister has been to continue with Salmond’s political model.
The SNP has had an easy political ride over the last 14 years thanks to the wretchedness of Scottish Labour.
Now, however, cracks have started to appear in what previously seemed like a political monolith.
Salmond’s new party may not have much success. A recent opinion poll showed that just 15 percent of those who voted SNP in 2019 viewed him favourably.
More people who voted Tory in 2019 viewed him favourably.
Beneath the superficial differences, both Salmond and Sturgeon offer the same set of neoliberal policies and lack of strategy. It is crucial that the grassroots independence movement turns outwards and looks to mass action from below.
Street protests, huge demonstrations, civil disobedience and building for workers’ actions matter more than elections and SNP manoeuvres.
This is the key to forcing the Tories to concede indyref2 and deliver an independence that brings about real change.