Scottish election 2021: Alba Party will make independence the main issue whether unionists and Nicola Sturgeon like it or not – Kenny MacAskill MP

The election campaign’s nearly over bar the shouting. Even that’ll be muted given restrictions at the count, where numbers are limited and declarations delayed.

But the outcome’ll still have major implications for governance and the independence campaign; and whilst there may be limited alteration to the former, if polls are to be believed, the dynamic of the latter’s certainly going to change.

It’s been a strange campaign unlike any other that I’ve been involved in and I go back to the general elections in 1974. Overshadowed by Covid like everything else in our lives, it’s been lacklustre with postal leafleting and social media supplanting door knocking.

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Even the final week when restrictions were lifted to a limited extent, the amount of public interaction was low. It makes it hard to get a feel for the public mood, as the hooting of car horns or less polite hand gestures are a poor substitute.

Turnout’s also going to be a factor. Postal ballots are up to around 24 per cent of the electorate and many of them are now in. So by the time the polls open around a quarter will have cast their votes but how many will wander up on polling day?

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Some prefer that but the normal election frenzy has been missing and won’t be about even on polling day. Election day may well pass many by.

I’ve never bought into the weather being a factor on turnout. If you’re motivated you go whether it’s rain, hail or sun. But the absence of a campaign and the whole locking down of life over recent months most certainly is a factor.

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond have a cup of tea in Inverurie ahead of the 2015 UK election (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)

As indeed are increasing scandals and abuse by elected representatives, sadly some in the highest offices of state. That’s corrosive and deeply damaging with a contempt for politicians of all parties growing.

That, along with a sense of hopelessness about life or pointlessness in voting at all, is cancer for democracy. A low poll will be a blow but it doesn’t affect the legitimacy of the result. Voting remains optional and it’s the result that counts.

Whatever the final result, it’s another Rubicon crossed for the independence movement. I’m confident that the Alba Party will be represented in Holyrood. That’ll change the dynamics post-election as it’s changed the dynamics of the campaign. Whilst many in the Yes Movement have rallied to the new party, the SNP has been seen to falter in its commitment to its core policy.

Lack of policy preparation is one thing but failing to anticipate that it’ll be an election issue quite another. The inability of SNP to articulate on borders, currency and other key areas has exposed a “comfiness” in devolution.

That’s been the recruiting sergeant for Alba, with many others waiting to see the final outcome.

No more’ll SNP be able to hide behind platitudes and rhetoric. Pressure from their flank will ensure that. If unheeded then many will join, not just vote for Alba. Independence’ll therefore be the main issue in Holyrood, whether Nicloa Sturgeon or unionists like it or not.

Kenny MacAskill is the Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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