Independence talks, free school meals and climate action high on Alba’s agenda

Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Reporter
·4-min read

Alex Salmond has vowed that Alba Party MSPs will “shake things up”, as he launched its first manifesto.

Set up last month, Alba is contesting list seats across the country in an attempt to see a “supermajority” of MSPs elected who support Scottish independence.

But in a five-minute speech as he unveiled the party’s proposals on Wednesday – after which he did not take questions from journalists or bloggers in his usual way – Mr Salmond insisted Alba is not a “single-issue party”.

Here are the key pledges set out in the Alba Party manifesto:

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Scottish independence

The 57-page manifesto focuses heavily on independence, with the party vowing to push the next Scottish government to start negotiations with Westminster immediately after the start of the new parliamentary term.

The party wants a commission for Scottish independence established which would report to a specially formed Holyrood committee and a convention of all Scottish parliamentarians.

The negotiations should not just centre around another referendum to achieve independence, the party says, but other levers could be used ranging from diplomatic pressure to “popular and peaceful demonstration and direct action” if Westminster refuses to talk.

Salmond in front of a saltire
Mr Salmond published the Alba Party manifesto on Wednesday (Jane Barlow/PA)

Post-independence Scotland

Alba would push for a written constitution for Scotland, enshrining the sovereignty of the people.

The party would also advocate for the creation of a separate Scottish currency, along with its own central bank.

While the SNP wants to see Scotland return to the European Union, Alba proposes joining the Nordic Council and the European Free Trade Agreement, while also remaining in a customs union with the rest of the UK, at least for a period after independence.

Democracy

Citizens’ Assemblies would be created and used for a number of issues in Scotland under Alba’s plans, including on devising the constitution and debating trans rights.

It also proposes the creation of a second chamber at Holyrood, which would be formed of 100 ordinary Scots, to monitor decision making while also coming up with its own ideas for legislation and holding inquiries.

Climate change

The party wants to see the creation of a renewable energy corporation, which would immediately take a stake in all new licensed projects producing more than 30 megawatts. Funds received from the projects would be used to create a sovereign wealth fund, which could be invested in companies across the world.

The corporation would also be tasked with developing a plan to move away from fossil fuels.

A new tax would be levied against offshore oil and gas companies in the North Sea, as a replacement for corporation tax, and reinvested into climate change-fighting measures.

A national housing company created to build social housing would also be tasked with creating a plan to insulate every home in Scotland.

School dinner tray
The Alba Party has pledged free school meals for all pupils (Ben Birchall/PA)

Education

All school pupils will be eligible for free school meals under Alba’s plans, using Scottish produce.

A package of measures would also be put in place to help youngsters recover from the pandemic, which would include support for mental health.

Like some other parties, Alba would also look at the starting age for schooling to see if children should focus more on play-based learning in their early years.

The manifesto also repeats Mr Salmond’s vow that the “rocks will melt with the sun” before Scottish students pay tuition fees for college or university.

Health and social care

Alba would invest in a “catch up” programme for the NHS, to allow procedures and services put on hold by Covid-19 to be carried out.

A mental health recovery plan would also be put in place to cope with the effects of the pandemic.

The party also backs plans for a national care service, but called for them to go further, while also proposing the building of “world-class, modern care homes which are much better for residents and less expensive to run”.