Alba Party will worry the SNP and the Greens, but appeal to many independence voters
The Alba Party launch excites a Holyrood contest boiling down to whether the SNP can get an overall majority and who’ll come second. Suddenly independence comes to the fore and galvanises those who support that cause.
Criticism that it’s somehow gaming the system’s absurd. The proportional list system and the D’Hondt voting methodology that applies to it was brought in specifically to try and ensure there that couldn’t be a nationalist majority.
That mould was broken by the SNP in 2011 but it remains a high hurdle to cross. But suggestions that it’s undemocratic by those who designed the very system for a specific purpose is simply sour grapes.
But as a list party, Alba won’t be seeking to win converts from those who oppose independence. They’ll neither be pitching to them nor expecting backing from them.
Instead they’ll focus on that admittedly quite substantial section of the electorate who support that cause. It’s to them that this party will appeal and it’s within the wider Yes Movement that there’ll be a dynamic and it will have an effect.
Many will have previously voted SNP and no doubt’ll continue to do so in the constituency contests.
But two issues arise. There has been some internal dissent within the SNP and a new political home will appeal to many. More importantly, the SNP argument for "both votes SNP”, both on constituency and list, will be challenged for two reasons.
Firstly, the arithmetic’s clear. In 2016, the SNP polled nearly a million list votes but returned just four list MSPs, none in two out of the six regional areas. On the latest polling they’d return none in any area.
Secondly, the independence super-majority being proclaimed by Alba Party will appeal to many independence supporters. There’s been frustration at inaction and a deference to Westminster. The idea that the Scottish Parliament can overcome a Boris Johnson veto will excite many.
Can they do it? Time’ll tell but the core vote certainly exists for it. The Greens’ll fear losing seats this election and the SNP’ll worry what the dynamic will be in Holyrood if they do succeed.
Kenny MacAskill is the SNP MP for East Lothian