However, in terms of how the broadcasters cover the independence debate, the SNP v three unionist parties set-up was always a massive negative. It allowed the BBC and others to give the unionist perspective three times the coverage of the pro-independence perspective, and innocently present that as "balance", "neutrality" and "objectivity". It also made the pro-independence side look isolated, and the unionist side look broadly-based.
With the arrival of Alba, we can now do something about that. If the new kid on the block successfully beds in, Scotland will have a truly balanced six-party system: three in favour of independence and three against. It won't be the end of rigged TV debates, but they'll become a lot harder to justify.
In a sense, the six-party system is already here. Alba have more members than the Scottish Liberal Democrats, almost as many local councillors as the Scottish Greens, and more Westminster MPs than Scottish Labour. The main omission is that they don't have any MSPs yet, but that's balanced out by the fact that the Scottish Greens don't have any MPs. But the broadcasters won't fully reward Alba for that position of strength until there's clear evidence that it can be sustained via votes in the ballot box.
And that's where the local council elections, now just four months away, come in. If Alba can win any seats at all, that would be the first example of people being elected under the Alba banner, and overnight the party will gain vital credibility.
My suggestion on New Year's Day of a resolution for the Yes movement was to hold the SNP-Green government to their promises on the timing of an indyref, and not to accept the goalposts being shifted yet again. To that I'll add a second resolution: let's use the local elections to at last get ourselves a balanced party system in Scotland. That doesn't necessarily mean giving Alba your first preference vote if they're not your first choice party. The beauty of the STV voting system is that all you have to do is give Alba some kind of ranking, and make sure you rank them higher than all of the anti-independence parties. With many well-known incumbent councillors intending to stand for Alba, there's every chance of a breakthrough, provided the Yes movement can move beyond destructively tribalistic voting behaviour. I will of course also be urging Alba supporters to rank SNP and Green candidates.
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