The Scottish Divide

Blair & Brown, Cameron & Osbourne, Bill & Hillary and Jefferson & Madison – these famous or perhaps, infamous, political duos have worked together to transform the political landscape and, in their various opinions, enrich and build up their homeland. On the other hand, we have Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond, a former political partnership that at one point seemed to be destined for greatness. When Salmond gave up the keys to Bute house to Sturgeon in 2014, and with Salmond himself taking an unplanned exit from front line politics in 2017, clean political glory seemed perfectly lined up for Sturgeon. Alas, it seems, it was not.

While Salmond knows that he does not have a home in the SNP anymore, some in the independence movement still seem to feel much more loyalty to him than Sturgeon

Salmond was forced to quit the SNP in 2018, after several allegations of sexual harassment and assault against female staff members became public, he then pursued a legal battle against this. This trial showed Salmond to have been hideously inappropriate towards the complainants, although he was eventually found not guilty on 12 charges and ‘not proven’ (a specific Scottish verdict different from innocence) on the intent to rape. Alongside this, the SNP/Green controlled Scottish Parliament decided to hold an inquiry into handling complaints, which, in summary, went poorly and ended up with the Scottish Government paying out £500,000 to Salmond for his legal expenses.

In Scotland itself, some feel that Sturgeon has been making the most of Salmond behaving scandalously by using it as an opportunity to utilize Salmond’s former support base in the SNP for herself. With various commentators accusing Sturgeon of misleading Parliament, this ultimately led to the creation of one investigation and one inquiry. The independent investigation conducted by James Hamilton, ex-Advisor to the Scottish and Welsh Governments, found that Sturgeon had not misled Parliament. However, the inquiry, which was set up by the Scottish Parliament themselves, decided that she had misled Parliament. So that doesn’t simplify things at all.

While Salmond knows that he does not have a home in the SNP anymore, some in the independence movement still seem to feel much more loyalty to him than Sturgeon, which can be seen with the defections of sitting MPs. The Alba Party now even has more election candidates than the Scottish Labour party.

However much Salmond despises Sturgeon, and the feeling appears to be mutual, their political goal of independence still unites them, which will have some rather interesting consequences. Salmond does not want to jeopardise the prospect of Scottish independence, but he is desperate to humiliate Sturgeon. Thus, the Alba Party was created, a political party born not out of a difference of ideas or policy - but of personality instead. Interestingly enough, Alba will only contest the regional list vote, not the constituency vote - this means that vote-splitting should be much less of a problem for them, due to the absence of the First Past the Post system.

I believe that Salmond wants to make the SNP dependent on him for their independence majority, as this may restore some of Salmond’s old political power. If Salmond thinks that an independent Scotland is inevitable, he reckons he ought to be part of building it, and the Alba Party is his vehicle of choice for just that.

So, let’s explore some of the possibilities before us. Let us consider if the Alba party does well and takes a significant chunk of regional seats that would have otherwise gone to the SNP, and the SNP are denied an outright majority. Hypothetically, this would give Salmond a lot of power in any coalition agreement, and it would be to no one’s surprise if his condition would be for Sturgeon to be removed as First Minister. Alternatively, should the Alba party do anything between average and terrible at the ballot box - the SNP still emerges as the largest party. In that case, this will enable the SNP to push forward on a continued coalition with Scottish Greens. With the Alba party likely to be falling into obscurity, like an indyref2 version of Change UK. But despite being pro-independence, the Alba Party currently has the potential to prevent independence almost entirely, by taking out Sturgeon. Alternatively, they could make independence a (for me, extremely lamentable) reality by doubling down on this mission and working with Sturgeon to increase the pressure on the UK Government. Still, only time will tell what will happen.

George is a conservative councillor and deputy chairman of Dartford Conservatives. He co-founded the Young Conservative Network and has a career in financial technology. George has a passion for foreign affairs, particularly American politics and enjoys reading and walking his dogs.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of DGN as a company.

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