What does Alba mean? Name of Alex Salmond's new pro-independence party explained - and how to pronounce it

The former First Minister’s Alba Party will contest the Scottish Parliament election in May
Alex Salmond set out his new Alba Party's aims for Scottish Independence on Tuesday (Getty Images)Alex Salmond set out his new Alba Party's aims for Scottish Independence on Tuesday (Getty Images)
Alex Salmond set out his new Alba Party's aims for Scottish Independence on Tuesday (Getty Images)

Scotland’s former First Minister Alex Salmond has returned to politics as the leader of a new, pro-independence party.

The Alba Party will stand in the upcoming Scottish Parliament election in May 2021 as a list-only party, putting forward at least four candidates in each regional list.

Launching his party’s campaign on Tuesday 6 April, Mr Salmond unveiled Alba’s “Declaration for Scotland”, arguing that it is the "sovereign right of people in Scotland to best determine their own future”.

So, what does the name of the new party mean - and how is it pronounced?

Here is everything you need to know.

What does Alba mean?

The word “Alba” is simply the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland.

It’s used in everyday life north of the border, including on road signs, trains and emergency service vehicles.

Alba, which is cognate with the Irish term “Alba”, referred to the kingdom formed by the union of the Picts and Scots under Kenneth MacAlpin in 843.

It is thought that the word comes from the Greek “Albion”, meaning “white land”, which was initially used to refer to Britain as a whole.

Alba is also the word for sunrise in a number of languages, including Italian, Spanish, Romanian and Catalan.

When Mr Salmond announced the launch of his party in March there was some confusion, with many assuming that the name came from the BBC’s Gaelic-language channel, Alba, which is named after Scotland.

How is Alba pronounced?

And there was further confusion when it came to the pronunciation of Alba, with many Gaelic-speakers taking to social media to school their followers on the correct way to say it after the party was publicly launched.

The Gaelic word isn’t said the way it is written. Instead, it is pronounced “Al-ah-buh”.

Many were outraged that Mr Salmond and representatives from his new pro-independence party appeared to say the word wrongly.

What are the aims of the Alba Party?

The Alba Party was founded with the aim of returning a “supermajority” for Scottish Independence during the May election.

"Alba will contest the upcoming Scottish elections as a list only party under my leadership seeking to build a super majority for independence in the Scottish parliament,” Mr Salmond said when he announced the party.

"Over the next six weeks we will promote new ideas about taking Scotland forward, giving primacy to economic recovery from the pandemic and the achievement of independence for our country.”

Alba will not compete in constituencies, and will instead only contest the regional list votes during the election.

In each of the eight regional lists, the party aims to have at least four candidates.

There is not yet significant polling data to predict how the Alba Party will perform in the election, and the SNP are currently forecast to win an overwhelming majority of the constituencies.

Alba is hoping that pro-independence voters that would give the SNP their first vote will give the new party their second list vote.

What is the voting system in Scotland?

The Parliament is determined by a process known as the Additional Member System (AMS) and the d’Hondt method of counting is used.

This system was introduced when the Scottish Parliament was unveiled in 1999, to make it more likely that a coalition would run the country.

Despite the system, the SNP was the first party to win an overall majority in the history of the Parliament in May 2011.

The AMS comprises two elements - a constituency vote and a regional vote - and each voter in Scotland is given two votes.

Through the constituency vote, you choose your preferred candidate for your local constituency.

There are 73 constituency MSPs, elected by a first-past-the-post (FPTP) system - the same used in Westminster elections - where the person with the highest number of votes wins and all other votes count for nothing.

The regional vote is the second ballot, which is used to elect an “additional” member.

Scotland is divided into eight electoral regions, from South Scotland to the Highlands and Islands, with each area having seven “list” or regional MSPs.

In the regional ballot, you vote for a political party instead of a named individual.

Parties compile a list of preferred candidates in order. These parties are then allocated a number of MSPs based on how many votes they receive - so the first seat won goes to the first candidate and so on.

A candidate can stand for election on both the constituency and regional lists, but if they win their constituency vote they are removed from the regional vote to ensure no one is elected twice.