ALEX Salmond has said Alba's position is that Scotland must "reclaim independence for our people and our country" as he closed his party's inaugural conference today.

The former first minister spent much of his address taking aim at the SNP over what he described as "delays" over holding a second independence referendum and for failing to exploit weakness in the Unionists' positions.

He said Alba could be an alternative to the SNP as he criticised the SNP's record in government and handling of the pandemic, which he said he believed would be judged "probably harshly" when the time came.

"In the long term Alba wish to be a part of the Government of an independent Scotland," he told delegates attending the in-person event at Greenock Town Hall.

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"Alba provides an independence insurance policy ... The record of the SNP/Green coalition on education, health, the economy, local government is at its very kindest mediocre.

"So is its record on the pandemic. When the immediate cloud of the pandemic lifts they shall be judged on that and probably harshly. We must not have independence judged with it.

"We do not want people turning back to the tired old Unionist parties or worse still staying at home. There has to be an independence alternative."

The National:

Salmond underlined that his party stressed the urgency in the case for independence and argued that First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was wrong to say the pandemic made the financial case for independence harder.

"Our core belief is independence for our country. Not as an aspiration for the future but something to be delivered with urgency - not for the hereafter but the here and now," he told delegates.

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"There have been five national elections in Scotland since the referendum of 2014. In each of them, the parties of independence have won a majority of seats. In this year’s Scottish election it was both a majority of seats and, thanks to Alba's small contribution, a majority of votes as well.

"And yet despite that clearly expressed mandate from the people to at least urgently re-open the decision on independence no progress has been made."

He added: "Of course there is always a reason. We had to wait until Brexit - but two General Elections were held during the Brexit process. In any case, Brexit was not a reason for delaying independence it was a reason for accelerating it."

"And then there is the pandemic. Why should that be a reason for delaying, at the very least, the preparations for a referendum?

"The pandemic did not stop the actual Scottish elections this year nor should it have. Why then did it delay independence preparations?

"My favourite Bill Murray film is Groundhog Day. The theme of someone caught in a time loop has been dealt with since many times in film, usually as comedy. But for Scotland and for independence it is becoming a tragedy."

The National:

The former first minister and SNP leader then cited a series of headlines from The National when senior SNP politicians had referred to the prospect of an second independence referendum.

"If you constantly march people up to the top of the hill and then down again, then you end up all singing rule Britannia," he told delegates.

"Bill Murray was only trapped in his time for a few months. Scotland’s Referendum Groundhog Day has lasted six years.

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"And now in the run-up to the SNP virtual conference, we have the announcement this week that a reduced civil service team are going to be asked to start preparations for an independence White Paper. Wow. Haud me back."

Salmond then set out what he said are the "real tasks" ahead for the independence campaign.

He said first a strategy had to be formulated for bending Westminster to the will of the Scottish people and underlined that he had "faced down David Cameron and George Osborne" in 2011 to get the 2014 referendum.

"Are we really saying Scotland can’t face down Boris Johnson and the disco king himself Michael Gove?" he asked.

He said the second task is to update the independence arguments for the post-Brexit age - on Europe, on currency, on borders. 

And the third task is to "inform our fellow citizens of the case for independence". 

He told conference attendees: "What wins converts to the independence cause is the arming of the people with information - not the policies of any individual party, however good they may be, but the facts and figures illustrating the fundamental case for freedom."

He revealed that Alba would help assist with the publication of a new edition of the Wee Blue Book, written before the 2014 vote, on the case for independence with the text to be written by former Common Weal chief Robin McAlpine and edited by Campbell. Salmond 100,000 copies of the new book would be published around Scotland before the local elections of next year.

On the pandemic and independence, he said the First Minister had said on Friday Covid had made the financial case for independence more challenging.

He said: "She is wrong - these great events, world events, make the economic and social necessity of Scottish independence overwhelming.

"We seek a Scotland which contributes to the greatest challenge facing humanity global warming - our country is blessed with a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind power, a quarter of Europe’s tidal power, 10%  of wave power. Let us use that potential for our benefit and for that of humanity.

"The future of Scotland lies in mobilising our natural resources. But at the heart of that, and deeper still, it lies in mobilising the talents of our people ... Our unionist opponents say we are not capable of that - genetically ill-equipped as one Labour politician famously said.

"Our position - Alba's position, Scotland's position - is not just that we can but that we must and that we shall - reclaim independence for our people and for our country."