ALBA leader Alex Salmond will today criticise the SNP’s approach to independence as being like “Groundhog Day”.

The former first minister also hinted that he may have another run at electoral politics, as the first day of the inaugural Alba conference took place yesterday.

He will give a speech to delegates today in which he will highlight that there has been five national elections in Scotland since the referendum of 2014 – and in each of them the parties of independence have won a majority of seats.

But he will say: “And yet despite that clearly expressed mandate from the people to at least re-open the decision on independence no progress has been made.

“The pandemic did not stop the actual Scottish elections this year nor should it have. Why then did it delay independence preparations?

“My favourite Bill Murray film is Groundhog Day. The theme of someone caught in a time loop has been dealt with since many times in film, usually as comedy.

“But for Scotland and for independence it is a tragedy. Bill Murray was only trapped for a few weeks. Scotland’s Referendum Groundhog Day has lasted six years.”

READ MORE: Alex Salmond hints at another run for elected office during Alba conference

Salmond also dismissed the pandemic as being a valid reason for delaying indyref2 as he spoke to the Sunday National yesterday on the first day of conference.

He said: “My view on this is we held a Scottish election during the pandemic – if you can hold a Scottish election during the pandemic, then you can certainly prepare for an independence referendum or indeed hold an independence referendum.”

The former SNP leader unsuccessfully stood earlier this year on the north-east regional list, as Alba failed to return a single MSP in the Holyrood elections.

Yesterday Salmond said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Alex ­Salmond has another go at electoral politics in the future.

“But right now I’m just celebrating the fact that I am now officially the leader of Alba and I’ve got a real political party to lead, with fantastic delegates.”

The next chance the former first minister would have to run is the council elections next year. When asked if this would see his return, he said: “I don’t know, I’ll have to have a think about that, but you’ll ­certainly see Alba fielding a range of great ­candidates in the local elections.”

The National: Kenny MacAskill

READ MORE: Kenny MacAskill elected Alba depute leader at party's first conference

MP Kenny MacAskill (pictured) – who was one of the most high-profile figures to leave the SNP and move over to Alba when it was launched in March – was yesterday elected as the party’s ­depute leader.

In a speech to delegates, he said “The need for independence is now even greater. The threats to our economy and society even larger and compounded by attacks on our parliament and even democracy. Austerity is real, privatisation of the NHS is happening, and a power grabs ­ongoing. That’s why mobilising for ­independence is essential.

“Delay’s unacceptable. Mandates have come and gone but its action that’s needed. As per this morning’s resolution that must be across the board and pursuing all legal and ­democratic channels.

“We cannot have more prevarication from the SNP. Now’s the time.

“It’s not simply the threat we face but the opportunity that exists. The British State has never been weaker.

“A Tory Government has never been more odious nor a Labour Party more supine.”

Another high-profile defection from the SNP, Chris McEleny (below), was also confirmed as the party’s new general secretary – a post he has also held on an interim basis. Ahead of the opening of the Alba conference, which is taking place in Greenock Town Hall, it was announced his father Inverclyde Councillor Jim McEleny had resigned from the SNP to join the party.

The National: Chris McEleny has been appointed interim general secretary of Alba

He said: “Since the election there has been no progress on independence whatsoever.

“The coalition with the Green Party just seems like a distraction to cover kicking independence into the long grass.

“All we hear is that independence will be a priority after the pandemic is over but the reality is that Covid makes independence more vital now than ever and without it we are going to be saddled with the policies Westminster impose on us such as removing the Universal Credit uplift – which thousands of people in Inverclyde rely on – and more Tory austerity.”

Two honorary memberships of the party were awarded to Gareth Wardell and Moira Brown.

The first day of the conference saw a number of issues discussed, including the establishment of an independence and democracy committee, council funding, women and equalities and the climate emergency.

A resolution was passed in favour of having an elected head of state in an independent Scotland with ­similar power to the President of ­Ireland – once the end of the Queen’s reign comes to an end – and a ­written ­constitution. Members of the party also unanimously condemned a move by the Scottish Parliament to empower the police to remove ­protesters from the surrounding area of ­Holyrood, calling for coordinated action to ­oppose it.

READ MORE: 'The fight is on!': Independence march in Stirling attracts thousands

Alba’s General Secretary McEleny said: “Our Alba members are rightly outraged at the Scottish Parliaments decision to impose this draconian protest ban.

“That they have sought to bring in the UK Home office to allow citizens in Scotland to be fined, or even sent to prison, simply for upholding their right to protest the decisions made by their Scots Parliament is a betrayal of its founding principles.”

Today the conference will continue with motions on nuclear weapons, the future of Scotland’s ferries, reducing drugs deaths and poverty.