What next for Alex Salmond and the Alba Party?
Yes party says it has Holyrood 2026 in its sights despite record of losses
Last Thursday was not a good night for Alex Salmond's Alba Party.
It entered the council elections with 13 incumbents, all defectors to its cause. As votes were counted on Friday, it became clear it would exit without a single seat between its 111 candidates.
Salmond called the results "very disappointing", but the party vowed to fight on. "The next Holyrood poll is our number one target," said Salmond in a statement conceding the losses. Alba, he said, "is undaunted".
But even the most fearless political operator would be forgiven for feeling taken aback after managing just 0.66 per cent of first preference votes, nationwide.
In Glasgow, its 14 candidates shared 2440 votes. In Renfrewshire, its lone hopeful managed 53.
The election leaves the party and its 6000-odd members with an unenviable record: it has never won the election of a single candidate, with last week's wipe-out following the across-the-board losses of its first contest.
"Let the earthquake commence," Salmond had declared as polls opened in the Scottish Parliament race last May, deploying again a metaphor he'd first used as SNP leader. But the faint rumblings from that result or this would be unlikely to chart on the Richter scale.
So where do Alba and its leader go from here? If Holyrood 2026 truly is the target, they have four years to regroup, refocus and rebuild.
The party retains its two MPs, deputy leader Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey, both of whom continue to focus on independence "as an immediate priority".
The idea that the SNP has lost interest in independence has been central to Alba's pitch to the public, but election results suggest that hasn't cut through.
A clutch of other Yes parties formed around the same time as Alba, including the Independence for Scotland Party and the Euro-sceptic alternative Sovereignty. They were similarly unsuccessful this time, but what sets Alba apart is the scale of its profile and its pedigree; Alba is, after all, the only one of the three with a former FM at its helm.
Writing in The National, former SNP MP George Kerevan, another of those who defected to Alba, suggests that the man who brought about indyref and began the SNP's winning run is the reason for the new party's defeat.
"The party was founded early last year in the wake of Alex Salmond's acquittal on various charges of sexually assaulting women," he wrote. "Whatever the rights or wrongs of the verdict, and whatever one's stance on Alba's policies, the inescapable truth is that the party is associated in the public mind primarily with Salmond and with Salmond alone."
The indy firebrand is "seen as yesterday's politician", he went on, "even by many who feel that he has been tragically wronged. And that showed on the doorstep and at the ballot box".
Salmond stood down as First Minister and leader of the SNP in a televised speech the morning after the No majority was returned in 2014. The announcement went out live on several channels. There's been no indication yet that he's planning to step aside this time. But it's unlikely that any announcement about a minority party which has just gotten even smaller would command as much attention.
But it's also unlikely that converts to the cause, who hold strongly that Salmond, not the SNP, is the key to unlocking independence, would seek to take their membership elsewhere.