By Rab Bruce’s Spider

As nobody can fail to have noticed, Alex Salmond fronting the Alba Party has caused quite a stir, with proponents and opponents all making points to justify their reasons for either voting or not voting for the new Party. Personally, I remain undecided for a variety of reasons, and I’m not going to tell anyone else how to vote on the List, even though I think everyone understands that we need to vote SNP on the Constituency ballot.

One thing I think we all need to keep in mind is that Twitter is not the world, so I took a quick straw poll of four female members of my wider family, to see what they thought of Alex Salmond’s decision. The ages here range from mid-twenties to … let’s just say well into retirement age.

The responses were interesting.

"Oh, no! Why can’t he let it go?"

"Who on earth is going to vote for him?"

"He’s a dirty old man."

And one, "Hmmm."

All four of these women are firmly in favour of Nicola Sturgeon. Issues like the reform of the Gender Recognition Act have passed them by. They trust Nicola Sturgeon implicitly. Some readers may regard that as displaying how ill-informed they are, but it is very interesting that, as members of the wider public away from the Twitter spats, they all hold this opinion. That’s not to say that one or more of them might not decide to vote for the Alba Party, but at the moment, it seems Nicola Sturgeon has their complete trust.

Of course, this mini poll is even less reliable than a Twitter poll, so I’m not placing any great emphasis on it. I just wanted to get a feel for what others were thinking.

As for the male members of the family, the response was the usual, "So who should I vote for?"

My response to that has always been, vote for whoever you like, but this is who I am voting for, and here are my reasons."

As for where my List vote will go, I’ll decide nearer the time. I am, as so often, hampered, by appreciating some of the arguments of both sides. I understand that Alex Salmond is a divisive figure, and it’s clear the media reporting of his trial, plus some of the admissions that came out of it, have damaged him in the eyes of many. So far, it seems that the suggestions of impropriety within the upper echelons of the SNP have not yet filtered out in my neck of the woods.

I have always been concerned that Westminster and the UK media always equate support for independence with support for the SNP.. In many ways they are right, but they always ignore votes for other pro-Indy Parties like the Greens. In that respect, I know it is vital that the SNP form the next Scottish Government. I know they will have the best chance of that with the greatest support, and I acknowledge the claim that, if everyone who voted for them on the Constituency ballot also voted for them on the List, they would gain more seats. It’s a strong argument, but it does fall down in many regions because, as far back as I can recall, they have never gained as many List votes as Constituency votes. This means that, even though I have always given them my List vote in recent elections, they’ve never managed to gain a List seat.

One bit of rhetoric I’ve seen from SNP supporters is that they need a majority if we are to get IndyRef2. I dislike that because the system is designed to prevent such a majority, and it smacks of buying into the UK media message that anything less than a majority will be a failure. I really do hope the SNP does win a majority, but I think that must remain at the very upper levels of expectations. And if we accept that only a majority will produce IndyRef2, we are allowing the Unionists to set the narrative and are giving them yet another excuse to block IndyRef2.

I can also understand the argument that voting for another pro-Indy Party could indeed split the vote so that they end up with no List seats either. New Parties have always failed to make much impression, but I do think having Alex Salmond as leader will attract a fair number of votes. Whether it is enough to win any seats, who can say?

I must admit that, at the moment (and I change my mind on this every hour or so), I am thinking I might as well waste my vote on a pro-Indy Party which has a small chance of winning a seat than wasting it on the SNP who have virtually no chance of winning a List seat. I still have time to swither over my decision, and I genuinely don’t know how I’ll vote.

I must say, though, that I have huge admiration for the members of AFI who have stood down to make way for (and in many cases join) the Alba Party. Wherever you stand in the debate, this does show that some people place political goals above political careers.

I fully expect the media to unleash a barrage of propaganda against the Alba Party. Whether this will dilute the media campaign against the SNP remains to be seen. After a little reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the media has more than enough bile to direct hatred against both. Even now they are portraying it as Alba vs SNP, which rather misses the point, although an awful lot of SNP members do seem to be trailing the same line of argument. That’s a little disappointing, and only adds fuel to the line of argument which claims that the SNP are not really interested in independence. However, I do understand that, being a political Party, they need to campaign for as much support for themselves as possible, to do otherwise would inevitably result in accusations of the Parties playing the system. Not that the media ever accuses the three Unionist Parties of playing the system, even when a former Labour leader openly encouraged voters to vote Tory simply to block the SNP, and when the current leader of the Tories has called for a coalition to block the combination of pro-Indy Parties.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks, but I think that, however you vote, having a choice can’t be a bad thing. Above all, as I’ve written before, this is a crucial election. More than anything else, we must show the world that the people of Scotland want to live in a normal, self-governing country. That means, as a minimum, the SNP being the largest Party, and the Parliament having an overall pro-Indy majority. Quite what the make-up of that Parliament will be, I don’t think anyone can say, but as far as the campaign is concerned, I hope all the pro-Indy Parties refrain from ad hominem attacks on each other’s representatives. They should each make their case, then let voters decide. That’s how democracy works, and the more choice voters have, the better it can work.