Are traditionalists welcome in the ALBA Party? Benedict Stuart explores the policy direction of the new party and suggests that it could lead to some political ecumenism.
A note from The Editors: We would like to make it clear that NewAlba is not in any way associated with the ALBA party. While the similarity between our names is a bit unfortunate, we do not intend to change our trademark in any way. We are not a political party. Our mission is to create a platform where Scotland’s future can be discussed from a traditionalist perspective. This writer takes a favourable attitude to the new party but NewAlba do not endorse it.
Over the last month there has been quite an earthquake in Scottish politics – Alex Salmond, Big Eck, Sandy, has returned to the frontline of political life, albeit under a new guise. In order to elect what he calls a ‘supermajority’ for independence in the Scottish Parliament, he has launched a new political party, ALBA (Gàidhlig for Scotland), with the hope of manipulating the Scottish List vote system to return a pro-independence parliament.
However, it seems that ‘playing the system’ is not ALBA’s sole intention. Thankfully, Salmond has indicated that the party wants to bring some opposition to the SNP in government on crucial areas of internal policy. It is practically unquestionable that Nicola Sturgeon’s style of government is very different to that of Alex Salmond’s: her’s is one characterised mostly by a very aggressive social liberalism; his had a greater focus on left-leaning economics and cultural nationalism. So, can we expect the ALBA party to be more than just an SNP sub-group?
There are certainly a few ways in which this new party is a re-incarnation of the old ‘Tartan Tories’ in the SNP. The ‘Tartan Tories’, of course, are no reference to Mrs Thatcher’s destructive individualism, but a reference to the auld traditionalist wing of the SNP. The word ‘Tòraidh’, after all, means ‘outlaw’ in Gaelic. It is a word that was originally used to describe those who were faithful to the Jacobite cause – a word that eventually became very much associated with Scottish Traditionalism before the term became so politically entrenched. It is also no secret that the SNP’s origins were certainly quite traditionalist. One of the party’s many founders was a Distributist Catholic, Sir Compton Mackenzie. The 1946 Constitution of the SNP even adopted an economic policy of “Catholic Distributism”, despite its overwhelming kirk membership. For the founders of the party, their seminal vision for a new Scotland was originally built on a recovery of the Scotland that was known to generations before.
Unfortunately, this dream of an ‘traditionalist’ SNP did not last very long: in the 40s some members went AWOL by declaring sympathies with the National Socialists in Germany; in the 60s other members started declaring some more internationalist sympathies by looking to European integration. However, despite the breadth of opinion in the party, the old traditionalist ‘Tartan Tories’ still remained throughout the years. Salmond himself has associated himself and disassociated himself with the trads whenever it seemed expedient. However, that is exactly who Mr Salmond is: a crowd pleaser. He will smack a smile on any face, Hanoverian or Jacobite; Gaul or Gael.
Salmond has always been a fan of the language that the early ‘Tartan Tories’ used to delineate their vision for Scotland, speaking about the ‘Claim of Right’ which will be made by the Scottish people and the ‘community of the realm’. At the ALBA Party’s independence policy launch, he even presented an edited version of the Declaration of Arbroath – a document which defines the essence Christian government almost perfectly. Salmond’s intention to appeal to Scottish romanticism is, for many, welcome, even if it comes off a little far-fetched at times. One need only compare this saltire-clad approach to the more monotonous attitude put forward by Sturgeon, who at times makes Holyrood sound like nothing more than a telephone company which offers the same services as Westminster, but in rainbow colours.
What does ALBA offer Traditionalism?
One ought to be careful when assessing the credentials of any new political party, mostly because the direction which it could take is completely unpredictable. However, for the more socially conservative-minded Scot, there are a few notes of interest with this new party. Notably, they seem to have formed (among other reasons) to oppose the Gender Recognition Reforms, which the SNP have been backing recently. These reforms, which would induce a massive liberalisation of transgender recognition laws, have been lambasted by prominent feminists within the SNP and beyond, with figures such as Joanna Cherry MP (SNP MP for Edinburgh South) even speaking against her own party leader on the issue.
The ALBA party has taken a hard line opposition to these reforms. And rightly so, from both the traditionalist and feminist perspective. For us, these reforms would engender many issues for those who would be compelled to use certain definitions and pronouns which we do not believe in – and for most of us, it will inevitably encroach upon our deeply held Christian beliefs. Radical feminist share the same concern, but from a different perspective; these reforms represent a real encroachment on the rights that women have fought for over the last half century - rights which can now be assigned to men by virtue of some careless legislation. I will not attempt to fight the feminists’ corner too much here, but even a traditionalist is compelled, as a matter of Christian vocation, to uphold the dignity of women and the distinctiveness of womanhood as a biological reality. ALBA candidates have also expressed some alarm at the Scottish Government’s association to LGBT organisations such as Stonewall, because of Stonewall’s commitments to lowering the age of consent – a proposition that ought to be opposed from every political corner.
The ALBA party also seems to be generally opposed to excessive woke-ness. I can only make this speculation by reading some of the comments made on twitter, where members have been concerned about the SNP’s efforts to curb offensive comments, assert political correctness, and institute some new pseudo-religious canons of morality. Alex Salmond has indicated that he has some substantial concerns with the SNP’s recent Hate Crime Bill and in this he is very far from alone. Even though the bill was edited heavily in the end, the effects of it could remain problematic for those who wish to express deeply-held opinions about matters pertaining to public morality. For sure, free speech absolutism is not a hill any traditionalist should die on - and there are grounds on which speech can be regulated for the common good - but the issue here is that the SNP’s Bill goes way beyond what is necessary to preserve public order. ALBA’s opposition to Hate Crime legislation could prove helpful, even if they only gain a few seats.
Crucially, they also seem to be committed to a ‘broad Church’ approach on life and family issues. This is a step up from the SNP’s current attitude, which seems to have become confessionally pro-abortion and pro-Euthanasia, while having no regard whatsoever for traditional marriage. ALBA, on the other hand, has endorsed some candidates who are openly pro-life, and some are even practicing Catholics, such as Chris McEleny.
And for those traditionalists who oppose re-joining the EU, some common ground has been found. The ALBA party is expected to commit to exploring other options such as the EFTA and EEA in order to maintain some economic relationship with the continent without being subject to the chains of European political institutions. Scottish Nationalism may yet shake off its odd obsession with the EU.
There are some Pitfalls
As a caveat, we ought not to view ALBA as a haven for social conservatives – that would be factually incorrect. While the party has pledged to oppose the Gender Recognition Reforms, this does not mean that the party is endorsing a traditionalist approach to sexual ethics. Rather, it means that the party is characterised by undertones of radical feminism. A political traditionalist ought to be rightly wary of this to some extent, since radical feminism is not exactly well known for its friendliness to, for example, pro-life policy.
However, it has to be noted that there is a lot of political ecumenism between traditionalism and radical feminism: both are strongly opposed to transgender affirming policies; both are strongly opposed to the liberalisation of prostitution; both are strongly opposed to pornography because it is an exploitation of women. Thus, we ought to play this ecumenism to our strengths wherever possible. It must also be noted that the ALBA party is hardly a confessional party of radical feminism – its relationship to the ideology is, as I said, one characterised by undertones. It seems that the ALBA party’s true purpose is purely to pursue independence – the same cannot be said for Sturgeon’s SNP.
The greatest pitfall of ALBA, however, would be that the whole project is a total gamble. There is no telling whether it will be a roaring success, a mediocre flop or a complete and total shipwreck. That sense of unknown, however, makes it all a bit easier to jump into. There is no harm in getting involved if it fails, and no harm in getting involved if it succeeds.
A New Opportunity?
It is expected that the party’s policy will sit to the left of the SNP economically and to the right of the SNP socially. This is a forbidden position that does not exist at all in Scottish politics – and it is one that should be welcomed by traditionalists. With one vote, we might be able to encourage respect for the common economic good, without complete and total neglect for the common moral good of society. And, in terms of making any more traditionalist impact, some investment in ALBA could be the way forward. Many other smaller parties have tried to influence politics across Europe with very socially conservative manifestos, but they have ultimately failed because of an unelectable manifesto. The problem is that we always side with a puritanical approach to politics. While we cannot support any politicians who would make public assaults on human life, on the issues which are more ‘negotiable’, some deference, prudence, and wisdom is required to proceed. A more mainstream party which leans in our direction should be welcomed – and engaged.
Is ALBA an opportunity for traditionalism then? Only if we make it one. We are never going to change Scotland solely through the ballot box. The secular state does not exist merely because voter attitudes changed. The media changed. The parties changed. The politicians changed. The religion of secular humanism successfully penetrated every institution in this country and rotted it from the inside out. If we do not have the courage to do the same, will we ever succeed in recovering a better kind of statesmanship?
If you want to change government and make it represent the Christian nation that Scotland once was, get involved in politics. Nay, get involved with this party. If it is at step in the right direction, it needs people-power to make the leap. Whether in the ballot box or in the public square, at the very least we ought to raise a bigger ruckus when parties like this arise from the ashes of liberalism. Perhaps ALBA is our new ecumenical matter.