If Alex Salmond and his new Alba party did not exist, pro-Union parties would find it necessary to invent them. Perhaps, of course, that is what has happened. Be that as it may, Salmond’s emergence from the swampy waters of his own disgrace is the best thing to have happened for Unionism in a long, long time.
Salmond may be an innocent man in the eyes of the law, but he is not a good one in the eyes of the public. Remarkably, he is less popular in Scotland than Boris Johnson. That reflects, doubtless, the manner in which Nicola Sturgeon’s friends and agents have turned against him and the sad lack of charity still bestowed upon him by his longstanding Unionist opponents. Even so, it is quite an achievement. Scotland agrees on very little these days but it can still just about collectively spot a wrong ‘un.
Since Alba is chiefly a vehicle for cranks and conspiracy theorists and yesterday’s very angry men, there is a case for thinking it serves as a useful purgative for the SNP which will, henceforth, be a better place for no longer having to accommodate Salmond and his camp followers. If we must have a nationalist movement, let it be dominated by as decent a party as is possible in such circumstances.
There is something in this, for sure, but the true winners from Salmond’s power-play are Scotland’s Unionist parties. This is so even if, as last weekend’s Sunday Times opinion poll suggested is possible, Salmond’s vanity party succeeds in taking as many as half a dozen seats on the regional list portion of May’s Holyrood election. Most, perhaps all, of those seats would likely come at the expense of the Conservatives and the Labour party.
Even so, this matters little. For in a universe in which it is seriously probable that the SNP will either win a majority itself or sit in a parliament that, thanks to the Green party’s representatives, enjoys a pro-independence majority anyway (as it does now), it matters very little if there are 26 Tory members or only 23.