ONE unexpected fallout from the SNP implosion is the political rehabilitation of Alex Salmond.

Suddenly, from being a media pariah, the Alba leader is everywhere – from guest articles in the Spectator magazine to even the BBC. He is also a permanent presence on the new internet-focused channels like GB News.

With Nicola Sturgeon’s dramatic departure, Wee Eck is the last Big Beast of nationalist politics still standing. Apart, that is, from his former friend and chief ally Mike Russell. But with Russell now ensconced as SNP president and declaring the need to rebuild unity in the fractured Yes movement, Salmond’s third act could be opening.

Salmond was always a class act politically. Of course, he has the archetypal marmite personality: you love him or loathe him.

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And he does not suffer fools gladly. Abrasive might be too soft a term when it comes to characterising his house style. But few UK politicians of the past generation have shared his strategic nous or his media savvy. On form, Salmond can impose his will on any political agenda.

And Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond, still a robust 68, is certainly on form.

It might have been different. Few individuals could have survived the personal trauma of his trial on sexual abuse charges – though these were rejected by a majority-female jury – without descending into bitterness or depression. Instead, Salmond launched the Alba Party and set about developing a new set of policies (like them or lump them) for the independence cause.

In response, the media, particularly the BBC, affected to treat Salmond and Alba as political nonentities. This media blackout certainly harmed the infant party. Nevertheless, Salmond recovered some of his traditional fight and set about a speaking tour around Scotland, arguing the case for indy. Alex has always played the long game.

Again, Salmond might have taken the recent travails of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP as an excuse to crow. Most of the 6000 or so new recruits to Alba were disaffected former SNP members who had quit because of the decay of inner-party democracy under the Murrell regime (like myself) and who had grown weary of endless promises of a second referendum that the leadership seemed strangely reluctant to actually prepare for.

But rather than take the opportunity to stick the boot in, Salmond has been preaching the necessity of bringing the movement together – including a rejuvenated SNP – through a national convention. And turning the Yes cause outward and in a positive direction.

Some might view Salmond’s (and Alba’s) position as hypocritical and not a little cynical. Certainly, both SNP and Alba activists have been needling each other for the past two years. Preaching unity at this juncture could be seen as a manoeuvre rather than a genuine offer on Salmond’s part. But there are strong arguments to the contrary. Arguments that Mike Russell seems to accept.

At root is Russell’s admission, in an interview with The Herald, that the SNP (and by definition the indy movement) is facing its deepest crisis in 50 years. True, the SNP and the movement are different things. And in my humble view, the SNP leadership in recent years has helped widen that rift.

But an electoral meltdown of the SNP would inevitably be seen as a defeat for the whole independence cause and demoralise activists and supporters alike. Regardless of where the political blame lies, the current imperative is to unite the movement and direct its energies outwards. Russell grasps this.

It goes without saying that the SNP themselves have internal baggage to deal with. Unless they democratise, the loss of party membership will continue. And the drift towards neoliberal economic policies must stop.

Policies already supported by the SNP membership but rejected in practice by the old Sturgeon regime – a Scottish currency and a public energy corporation, for instance – have to be reinstated.

It is interesting, in this context, that Alba have already adopted positions not only for an independent currency and public control of energy, but also an elected head of state and membership of EFTA rather than the EU. Alba is sometimes caricatured as right-wing populist, but their stance is actually much nearer to old-style SNP social democracy. This is a social democracy the current SNP has to re-embrace.

That said, it is equally incumbent on Alba and the independent factions of the movement (Common Weal, AUOB, Now Scotland, etc) to adopt a political tone that is opening to the SNP and its remaining members. Mike Russell, in his Herald interview, explicitly offered co-operation with Common Weal, an indy think tank and campaign group that was latterly (and correctly) very critical of the Sturgeon regime.

He also was open to working with Alba – a dramatic shift – but noted (correctly) that was only possible if neither side treated the other as an enemy. That is wise counsel.

We can have policy differences but work together constructively on concrete initiatives.

Which brings us to the idea of a national convention. First, we need the various leaders of the movement to abandon megaphone diplomacy in favour of some discrete diplomacy aimed at hammering out what such a convention might look like.

One version is to bring together Scotland’s elected politicians (Holyrood, Westminster and city chambers) plus representatives of civic Scotland. That gathering could issue a new call to action and perhaps elect a movement leadership independent of any political party, on Catalan lines. That would free the Yes movement from being entangled in the internal problems of any particular political current.

Salmond and Alba have been preaching the virtues of such a national convention of the movement. Salmond the statesman now has to show this is more than a stick to beat the new SNP leadership with.

Humza Yousaf is, by definition, inexperienced. He has (by accident or design) exiled his two leadership rivals to the Holyrood backbenches, thereby weakening further his position. Worst of all, he has no background outside of the SNP, which makes it difficult for him to see the party as only a bit player. Salmond has to deal with this.

A national convention is not a slogan, it is a vital necessity for the whole movement.

The SNP’s Westminster MPs also have a role to play in bringing about the convention. Many are bound to lose their seats in next year’s likely General Election. It may be too late to prevent that. But that means these MPs can afford to take risks. A clear call from the Westminster group backing a convention (and saying they will attend) will put pressure on Yousaf.

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Closer co-operation between the SNP and Alba MPs in London could begin tomorrow, as a sign of good faith. That simple step would put heart into the whole movement back in Scotland.

Douglas Ross is now calling publicly for Unionist supporters to vote for the party – Tory, Labour or LibDem – best placed to defeat the SNP in their constituency at the coming Westminster election. Our enemies are uniting against us. This makes it imperative the national movement is itself (re)united. As the old saying goes, we hang together or get hung separately. Which means Alex Salmond and Mike Russell need to get round a table this week.