The National:

FORMER SNP MP turned Alba member George Kerevan wrote fondly in The National that his new party’s conference, which took place in Greenock Town Hall over the weekend, was “just like old times” in the SNP.

This is a feeling which I’m sure is shared by more than a few of Alba’s members, who feel left behind or out of step with the direction the SNP, and perhaps the wider world, has taken.

The trouble with the good old days is that they were never quite so good for everyone as some might remember. They are also destined to remain in the past. Time, on the other hand, moves only forwards, hurtling us all towards some as-yet undetermined future — whether we like it or not.

This is the simple fact with which the big names (or at least the big egos) throwing their weight behind Alba seem incapable of getting to grips with. It will never again be 20 years ago, in the early days of devolution. Nor will it again be seven years ago, when Scotland voted to remain in the UK, but a movement of people who saw another way was energised and, in many cases, awakened to political activism for the first time.

We stand in a different moment in history – and considering all that’s happened in the last seven years, it feels very different indeed – and we will be sorely disappointed if we delude ourselves that the same tools, tactics and even voices that inspired 45% of voters the last time are going to convince a majority now.

This should be all too apparent looking at the results of the Scottish Parliament election in May, in which Alba secured only 1.7% of the regional vote and returned exactly zero MSPs, despite being headed by the former First Minister and garnering considerable media attention. Even its two MPs can only enjoy such a title because they were elected as SNP representatives two years ago, before astral projecting themselves into a party that makes them feel more important.

The National:

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

Meanwhile, a genuinely progressive, pro-independence alternative to the SNP, in the form of the Scottish Greens, gained three more seats, and perhaps could have gained a couple more if it wasn’t for a far-right group which branded itself “Independent Green Voice”.

The old saying tells us that no publicity is bad publicity, but you would have to be a fool, or maybe just a desperate megalomaniac, not to realise that the publicity associated with Alba has annihilated their electoral chances.

A quick perusal of the “highlights” of the Alba conference will confirm that the former First Minister is in good company too – ‘twas a veritable who’s who (or, more aptly, “who the f***’s that?”) of the cancelled and cannae get in anywhere else.

The entire thing came across like the last vestiges of a dying era, the final gasp of yesterday’s men as they cling, white-knuckled, to the past at the expense of a future they claim to care so deeply about.

Even the announcement that Alex Salmond will commission an updated version of the “Wee Blue Book”, now the “Wee Alba Book”, written by Robin McAlpine and edited by Stuart Campbell (Wings Over Scotland), evoked second-hand embarrassment so severe that Salmond is probably liable to pay for private counselling for everyone who heard it.

The idea that this is what the independence movement needs, that this is what Scotland needs, to edge it towards a more socially just and self-determined future is laughable. And isn’t that what all of this is supposed to be for?

It seems that there are some who have become more enamoured with the sound of their own voice, and the boost to their egos they receive from a small but devoted following, than they are with the business of persuading a single new person of the positive case for independence.

Those of us who appreciate how sad and regressive all of this is could simply brush it off, but when people seek to associate themselves with the “movement” for independence in a manner which seems absolutely intent upon alienating large sections of the population, it becomes necessary to point out that Alba does not represent the vast majority of independence supporters.

We are also living through a time where reactionary politics is gaining more of a foothold internationally, often driven by a process of radicalisation which takes place primarily online. In the interests of holding Scottish politics above that gutter level, it’s incumbent on all of us who reject it to say so.

Speaking of the SNP’s record in government and its handling of the pandemic, Salmond told the Alba conference: “We must not have independence judged with it.”

If Alba’s record so far is how independence will be judged, then not only might the “dream” die – it will be Salmond who killed it.