The election’s over and the votes have been counted. It wasn’t to be for Alba this time, but the fight goes on.
Whilst there’s disappointment, there’s also vindication. SNP list votes were even greater than in 2016 and yet produced even fewer list MSPs.
There’s an irony in the SNP suffering from unionist tactical voting, having traduced Alba for allegedly gaming the system. In the end it was perfidious Albion not Alba as Labour and the Tories gave each other hauners – when will the SNP ever learn that the British can’t be trusted? They may write the rules but they sure don’t play by them.
But with more MPs than Scottish Labour and more members than the Scottish Liberal Democrats, we march on. More are already joining having seen the outcome and many more we believe will follow.
That’s because indyref 2 is being kicked even further down the road. Firstly, a veto was given to Boris Johnson by insisting that a Section 30 order was required. Now that’s compounded by allowing him to dictate the timing. The First Minister’s decision that there’ll be no vote before “coronavirus recovery” cedes that to him as well. Leaving aside how there can be recovery without the fiscal and economic levers provided by independence, Johnson can delay matters indefinitely by simply saying “now is not the time”, knowing that he and Nicola Sturgeon are now singing from the same hymn sheet.
Alba is readying itself to push for independence and promote a radical policy agenda whilst preparing the policies on borders, currency and so many other issues that the SNP have shamefully failed to do, as well as contesting council elections next year.
Local groups are getting established and a national conference to settle the constitution and set policy is being organised. In the interim the Westminster group has to be set up. Parliament has returned and so we require to formulate a strategy there for Alba.
Alba intends to be a membership-based party where it’s the rank and file who decide policy and strategy, not executive diktat or select groups having greater influence than individual members. But as with some matters in the run-up to the election, we have to take some immediate decisions as to how we’ll operate, though it’ll ultimately be up to members. We’ll account to the national conference and will follow the directions of the party through its democratic structure.
Until then this is how we propose to operate in Westminster. Alba isn’t an abstentionist party. Westminster isn’t our parliament but having been elected there it’s up to us to use it and maximise its benefit for our cause (as well as of course representing our constituents to the very best of our abilities).
We’ll seek to use the platform it provides – limited though that may be – to make our cause’s case. We’ll also seek to utilise the resource it offers through the ability to question and obtain information. Both of those factors are critical for our party’s success.
We’re working with others who have served there to devise strategy and tactics that we can deploy. Room for manouvre is limited, as the days of Charles Stewart Parnell and the ability of Irish Nationalists to disrupt has passed. Powers have been centralised and the government dictates the agenda more than ever. But still there are things that can be done and gains that can be made.
That said, there can neither be supine deference to it nor any role taken in the administration of the British State. Partaking in pageants such as the Queen’s Official Opening of Parliament will be forsworn, as will participating in issues that are neither relevant to Scotland nor of concern to her people. Seeking official offices within Parliament is not the role of an MP of a party seeking to be independent of it, and neither’s holding posts that simply entrench British authority, whether over our land or other provinces.
Attendance in the Commons will be when it affords an opportunity to promote Scottish interests, not a routine sojourn to London. There’s plenty work to be doing in our constituencies and across Scotland, and that’ll be our focus. We’ll vote when appropriate on issues as they arise.
However, we’re under no illusions as to the likelihood of success in those votes and see no need to be there to do so on every occasion and on all issues. Since our election in 2019 not one vote was won by the SNP, let alone the opposition. A routine majority against SNP motions or amendments by the combined unionist parties was in the region of 250. On other issues the Tories had a majority of 70 over the combined opposition. (72 now with the Labour defeat in Hartlepool.) Our two votes either way are not going to make any difference.
In these circumstances we’ll go when we need to but concentrate our efforts in our constituencies and in Scotland. We pledge now that we’ll do so unless and until directed otherwise by conference. In the interim we’ll maximise what we can do there to promote Scotland’s cause.
Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey are Alba Party MPs.