SEVEN weeks ago, Alba announced its new leader Alex Salmond and launched its election campaign. A total of 32 candidates stood in the eight electoral regions, held consultation debates via Zoom then published manifestos.

The new party gained two SNP MPs and 20 SNP and former SNP councillors, registered nearly 5000 activists and supporters as members, and campaigned to promote their message that the SNP in constituencies and Alba on the list ballot was the way to win a supermajority in Holyrood for independence.

Speaking exclusively to The National, Alex Salmond said: “This is not a pop-up party. We may not have established a bridgehead in the Scottish Parliament, but we have established a political bridgehead and we are not going to go away.”

In retrospect, Alba was too little, too late, to have any real effect on the election counts, but there is no doubt that Salmond and Alba definitely had an impact on the election.

READ MORE: Alba will 'bloom' after Scottish election, Alex Salmond says

By common consent this has been the most boring Scottish parliamentary election yet, with the result long being a foregone conclusion according to the opinion polls, but the arrival of Salmond as leader of a new party shook things up.

Even as he was leaving the party back in August 2018, Salmond was telling friends that it would be the SNP strategy to make the election all about a second independence referendum, and he also predicted that the Tories would play into the SNP’s hands by concentrating all their resources on persuading voters that the only way to stop a second referendum was to vote for them – and that is exactly what happened.

Even as the last results were coming in, it was clear that Alba at least brought some excitement to the election but were unable to make the all-important breakthrough of actually getting bums on seats in the Scottish Parliament chamber.

Given their lack of activists and infrastructure, Alba also needed to gain as much access to the media as possible to get their message over and again that just did not happen.

The BBC, in particular, did not allow Salmond to take part in leaders’ debates, which meant that the events were not quite like Hamlet without the Prince, but certainly without the Ghost or Claudius.

Apologists for the BBC say they could not just allow Salmond in, because then they would have to permit George Galloway and other leaders of small parties into the debates.

Salmond said: “It didn’t stop the BBC allowing Nigel Farage on their screens and in their radio studios even when he had no party at all.”

SO how did Alba come about and how did their campaign go? And what happens next to Scotland’s newest political party?

Documents registered with the Electoral Commission show that the Alba Party was registered with them by retired television producer Laurie Flynn in January this year. The grandfather-of-two was one of the most respected investigative journalists in the UK, an English-born Scottish-educated graduate of the London School of Economics who moved seamlessly into a long career in television journalism, most often associated with ITV’s World In Action.

Mentored by the great journalist Paul Foot, Flynn came to prominence with his incisive coverage of the Shrewsbury 24 scandal in the early 1970s, in which construction workers were convicted – six were jailed – of picketing offences under a 100-year-old conspiracy act. The convictions were overturned 49 years later and in March, Flynn celebrated with one of the six who was jailed, the Royle Family actor Ricky Tomlinson.

What happens next for Alex Salmond and Scotland’s newest political party?

The National can reveal that Flynn and Salmond have known each other for only a few years, and the connection came because one of Flynn’s myriad contacts in the world of security had tipped him off, claiming that the “Edinburgh Airport incident” involving the then first minister was a “set-up”.

Both men stayed in touch and, when Flynn returned to live in Scotland, he and Salmond spoke about the possibility of a new party that would campaign for independence on the regional lists.

The formation of the party as an electoral force took place amid conditions of great secrecy. Very few of Salmond’s close friends and colleagues had any idea about what he was up to. Kenny MacAskill, for instance, only heard rumblings a fortnight before it became public.

Incredibly, someone called “John” stated this on Twitter on February 26: “Prediction: Next week Alex Salmond is going to launch a party, backed by the Wings folk and some people will jump ship to join it.” Everyone in the media missed it and “John” was only out by four weeks.

For it was on March 26 that Alex Salmond revealed that he was the new leader of Alba and they would be contesting the Holyrood election. Perhaps because it was taking place outside of the Holyrood bubble, Alba was able to come together quite quickly and without any media speculation. That is what made Salmond’s announcement on March 26 such a bombshell.

Flynn stepped aside to allow Salmond to be leader, and his motivation was simple: “I have as an adult always longed to breathe the air of a free and tolerant, democratic and independent Scotland which celebrates human diversity.”

For a party which was always going to have to campaign digitally, and mostly by generating their own online presence, Alba needed a slick, high-profile launch. That did not happen and the mainstream Scottish media were only too happy to highlight the technical botches of the launch.

Nothing daunted, a series of high-profile defections from the SNP were announced in the first few days of Alba. MacAskill, MP for East Lothian, and Neale Hanvey, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, both quickly joined Alba. Critics say they should stand down and fight for their seats in by-elections. Both are declining to do so.

Former Scottish justice secretary MacAskill explained yesterday: “I left the SNP for good reasons and have joined Alba to boost the fight for independence. Neale Hanvey and I will now form an Alba group at Westminster.”

Inverclyde councillor and former SNP group leader Chris McEleny; National columnist and former SNP MP George Kerevan; former SNP MSP Jim Eadie; lawyer and former SNP leading figure Eva Comrie; SNP Councillors Michelle Ferns and Caroline McAllister, and Margaret Lynch, director of Communities Scotland, were among other prominent people to join. World super-featherweight boxing champion and Commonwealth Games gold medallist in 1998 Alex Arthur also signed up, as did economist Jim Walker.

What happens next for Alex Salmond and Scotland’s newest political party?

THERE followed some hiccups about how the party’s name should be pronounced. After what was portrayed as a gaffe, the question was asked – should the name be pronounced Al-bah or Al-a-bah? Easy – both are acceptable as the first is in English and the latter is Gaelic.

Arthur was taken to task over tweets made years ago about Romanians and beggars, and had to apologise, then Lynch caused controversy with her remarks at the party’s first women’s conference which were interpreted as suggesting certain organisations were in favour of lowering the age of sexual consent. That’s not what I said or believe, said Lynch.

In the background was the “Sturgeon v Salmond” saga.

Salmond insisted that independence supporters should vote SNP in the constituencies and Alba on the list.

Former MP and unsuccessful Alba candidate Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh is a long-time friend and colleague of Salmond, and even she did not know that he was helping to create Alba as a campaigning force.

“I knew Alex had been asked by other parties to be their leader or at least stand for them,” said Ahmed-Sheikh, “and I was hopeful that he would stand, because his presence and strategic thinking was a glaring miss in the independence debate.

“I had no hesitation in joining Alba, and I was really pleased to be a candidate.”

MacAskill said the BBC had shown they were part of the British state by blanking Alex Salmond and Alba, and Salmond concurred: “We were told we needed 6% on the polls to get on to the debates, but when we achieved that the BBC said no, it was only 4.5% as the previous poll had shown us at 3% and they took an average. “Funnily enough, I have been inundated by calls from the BBC over the last few days. During the campaign I never heard from them.”

AHMED-SHEIKH, a television producer who works for Slainte that makes the Alex Salmond Show for RT, was even more scathing about the media and especially the BBC.

“We were blocked everywhere,” she said, “despite a poll that said 80% of people wanted to hear what we had to say. Editorial decisions, particularly those of the BBC, meant that the public were denied the chance to hear a different viewpoint and that is deplorable.

“The BBC were worse than STV, who at least interviewed Alex as a party leader. Not one of the 18 Alba women candidates, four more than men candidates I would point out, were interviewed at any length.

“Am I the wrong type of woman candidate or is it just they would only feature the women of a particular party or parties?

READ MORE: Scottish election came 'too soon for Alba', Kenny MacAskill says

“Alba women will have their say, believe me, and our party will have a conference over the summer to build Alba further.

“In the meantime, I would say the second referendum is absolutely the responsibility of the Scottish Government and we will be watching what that SNP Government does to bring forward the day when the people of Scotland get their choice again.”

Salmond confirmed that he had been asked by parties such as Independence for Scotland and Action for Independence to join them and either lead or stand for them.

He explained: “I did consider them but in the end decided the best thing to do was to lead Alba and I was very pleased and very thankful that the other parties stepped aside to let us make the case for a regional list vote for independence. That should not be forgotten.

“Our task now is to have our conference and prepare for the local government elections next year, when the single transferable vote system of proportional representation will hopefully show a better return for us. Yes, we didn’t perform as well as I hoped in this first election, but we are up and running and here to stay.”