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Ash Regan joining Alba is a game-changer

According to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, change is the only constant. Since devolution, Scotland has seen momentous change. But over the last five years the political turbulence has been disorientating for all of us.

I was delighted that Ash Regan became the Alba Party’s first Member of the Scottish Parliament at the weekend. This is a game changer for Alba’s efforts to ensure the Scottish Parliament regards the need for our nation’s independence as an immediate priority.

Like Ash, who is the first of what will be many Alba MSPs, we each have our own story to tell about the catalyst for moving to Alba. For me there were two key reasons. First and foremost was the urgent need for a serious party to put independence front and centre.

Secondly, I wanted to give my explicit support to Alex Salmond as the only person who has ever delivered a majority in our proportional parliament and who I knew had the plan to again take Scots towards independence.

The SNP have abandoned any serious attempt to lead Scotland to independence. Alba stand on the cusp of becoming the leading party of that cause. That has to be our focus. We must prepare for a change in our electoral fortunes. It is coming.

Let’s not forget what we have achieved as a party and as a group of two at the UK Parliament. We have unquestionably kept the independence dream alive and led the narrative. We have held those in power north and south of the Border to account on their many failures to deliver for the people of Scotland.

On energy, Alba have exposed the betrayal and the lies behind the ScotWind sale. We have challenged the Prime Minister repeatedly on the robbery of Scotland’s vast energy resources.

My colleague Kenny MacAskill has led the debate on standing charges, social tariffs and the obscenity of self-disconnection and has highlighted the absurdity of energy-rich Scotland and fuel-poor Scots.

And we have exposed the economic vandalism supported by the Greens and Labour on North Sea oil and gas and the huge potential of carbon capture as a means to transition to a carbon-less future.

Alba have spoken up again and again for sex-based rights, child protection and the dangers of men in women’s prisons and women’s sport.

On international issues, we have defended the defenceless from Iraq to India and Yemen. We have exposed the transportation of vulnerable refugees to Rwanda and the appalling conditions at Dungavel.

On employment, we’ve stood shoulder to shoulder time and again with the RMT and other unions in their demands for decent pay and conditions.

Unlike what you will see in other parties that ban or sneer at their members, I joined striking NHS workers on pickets lines, calling out dangerous Tory rhetoric against dedicated healthcare professionals.

We’ve pressed the case on pandemic recovery and future preparedness and called out pandemic greed.

We have defended Scottish businesses in diagnostics and vaccine development when their own MPs were missing in action.

In our constituencies we’ve delivered for the people we represent, dealing with thousands of cases for constituents, businesses and community groups and we have supported local efforts to tackle the greed-fuelled inequality of Tory rule and their cost of living crisis.

For example, my team has put almost £105,000 back into the pockets of cash strapped constituents

In Parliament, we have exposed Labour as the Tory-lite false alternative they are. They offer nothing different but, should they ever win office, threaten the rights of women and the protections of children.

We have given voice to the humanitarian consequences of conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, making the case for ceasefire and de-escalation in place of violence, death and destruction.

We have exposed the dangers of the nuclear weapons housed in our country without our consent, control, or their safe containment.

And, of course, on independence, we have led where others have given up.

In the UK Parliament, it has been Alba who have been the standard bearers for our national right to self-determination. We captured the attention of the world’s media, putting Scottish independence in newspapers across the globe. That’s no stunt, it is political guile.

We have secured compelling independent legal advice on our route to statehood from Professor Robert McCorquodale.

It was Alba who marked St Andrew’s day in parliamentary debate, declaration and our tabled motion.

It was Alba who developed a credible policy for swift access through EFTA into the EU single market. All and all, we have made a compelling case in favour of independence, done the important work charting the path to independence, and kept the dream alive that a better Scotland is possible.

All of the above are achievements of substance for which we should be proud. And, of course, Alba have been the only party that want to put country before parliament at the General Election.

While Angus MacNeil will continue to sit as an independent MP, following his offer to work cross-party on independence, it’s only Alba who have responded, and he has now begun working with us under the shared banner of Scotland United.

A Scotland United campaign can only make progress if those involved hold a genuine determination for Scotland to be a normal independent country. Those who choose devolution or disregard the aspirations of their voters now risk being crushed on the political rocks.

Our movement is resilient and will regroup, driving forward to independence with or without them.

The movement is waking up to the reality. How we respond to them, in person or on social media, must begin with the hand of friendship. No shame, no ridicule, no 'told you so-s'. We must prepare to be the true party of independence, and we can only do that if we build confidence in ourselves and in the minds of the people of Scotland.

Change is not easy, but it is an unavoidable part of the journey to independence.

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