Alba conference: 'Losing councillors at local elections would be failure'

Scotland’s newest pro-independence party will be “disappointed” if it loses any councillors at next year’s local elections, a senior figure has said.

Alba’s acting general secretary and former SNP group leader in Inverclyde, Chris McEleny, said he expects another five defections to his party in coming months and would hope to hold on to council seats in next year’s local elections.

He said the party is aiming to overtake the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens and become the fourth largest party in Scotland’s local government, and he criticised the SNP’s “Thatcherite” approach to councils.

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Alex Salmond spoke to Alba party delegates at its first conference on Sunday,

In May’s Holyrood election, Alba failed to elect a single MSP and received 1.7 per cent of the national regional list vote.

Asked what success might look like in the 2022 council elections, Mr McEleny said he would want to hold on to the party’s existing councillors.

He said: “I think success looks like registering, winning seats, holding seats.

"At the moment we have 15 elected councillors with another defection. I would be disappointed if we didn’t have another five or six defections over the coming months, certainly in the new year.

“We’ll be hoping to retain all the councillors that wish to re-stand. Not everyone has made that decision.

"We are certainly looking to go north from our current horde of councillors and you’ve got a reasonable bar there that you can actually become quite a strong force.”

Mr McEleny, who has been a councillor for nearly ten years, said he had yet to decide whether he would stand for re-election, adding he may choose to focus on Alba’s internal party matters.

Party leader Alex Salmond said he may try again to be elected, but it is unlikely the former first minister will stand in the council elections.

He said: “We will be fighting on key issues, independence being an immediate priority, children and family poverty, issues that actually make a difference at a local government level.

"If you look across councils across Scotland, the current Scottish Government have adopted an almost Thatcherite policy to local government. They have totally asset stripped it.

"They have made people think the Scottish Government comes to save the day to fund services such as libraries.

"You’re either for localism or you’re against it. The Scottish Government is currently against localism.”

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