Nicola Sturgeon humiliation after Alba Party conference sold out amid SNP defections

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In a highly unusual move, Alba is holding its party conference this weekend at the same time as the SNP’s. The clash of conferences is the latest headache Alba has given First Minister Nicola Sturgeon since the party was launched by her former friend and mentor Alex Salmond in March. The SNP and Alba have both made manifesto commitments to Scottish independence and both aim to hold another vote to drag Scotland out of the UK.

Mr Salmond said when he launched Alba he hoped it would provide a super majority for an accelerated Scottish independence bid.

The former Scottish First Minister’s bold rhetoric on the issue has since been bolstered by a wave of high-profile defections to Alba from the SNP.

As the SNP haemorrhaged some of its veteran supporters, Alba’s membership swelled to more than 6,000 last month.

An unearthed report also reveals how Alba’s conference had already sold out by the beginning of August.

Organisers of the event, which will be held this Saturday and Sunday at Greenock Town Hall, were forced to seek extra capacity.

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Meanwhile, the SNP’s four-day conference will be held online due to the risk of the spread of COVID-19.

Alba’s interim general secretary Chris McEleny suggested that the rise in support showed that people in Scotland were keen to push ahead with independence.

Speaking at the time, he said: “It was a phenomenal achievement to reach 6000 members on Friday.

“I cannot think of another example the world over of a new political party growing to such a size in such a short period of time – before it’s even held its first ever conference.

“We are without doubt the fastest growing political party in Europe.

“Alba continues to rise because of the urgency in which we are demanding Scotland’s independence is progressed.

“I am confident we will be able to secure access to more delegates which will allow hundreds of more Alba members to attend our inaugural conference.”

One of those who defected to Alba was veteran SNP campaigner Moira Brown, who quit the party after 65 years in July.

She became Alba’s 6,000th member and was welcomed personally by Mr Salmond, who said he was “proud” to have her among the party ranks.

Ms Brown said: “One of the things I liked about the SNP is that it was a party that came from the bottom up, but I can’t say that now.

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“I have had my doubts the past few years and it cumulated in me talking and listening to other people and soul-searching about leaving (the SNP).”

The former SNP stalwart’s frustrations with her once-cherished party are shared by many pro-independence critics of Ms Sturgeon, who accuse her of moving too slowly on the issue.

The First Minister did say this week that her administration had restarted work on an independence prospectus.

The announcement came as Ms Sturgeon unveiled her Programme for Government for this year.

However, her plan did not include a Referendum Bill, which would be necessary for Scots to be able to vote again on independence.

The country rejected independence at the 2014 referendum.

Another vote – often known as Indyref2 – will not take place until “the Covid crisis has passed” but will be held before 2023, Ms Sturgeon has said.

Alba’s message at its party conference will be that independence is an “immediate priority”.

Speaking this week, Mr Salmond said: “A party that will campaign for independence with the urgency it requires, which recognises that independence is not an alternative or something to be postponed until after Covid but is essential to genuine recovery.”
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