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WATCH: Could a Highland-specific manifesto help win over the north to Alex Salmond’s Alba Party?

By Scott Maclennan

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When Councillor Karl Rosie resigned from the SNP it sent shockwaves through the party – he was not known as a natural rebel, he was not from the radical fringe of the party.

After all Cllr Rose was also a former Westminster parliamentary candidate who came to within a couple of hundred votes of unseating veteran LibDem MP Jamie Stone.

When he joined Alex Salmond’s Alba Party there were further ripples in the political pond as most SNP members, far less MSPs or MPs have still not adjusted to the fact there is another show in town.

Albeit it is a smaller show, playing at smaller venues but it is striving to win them over and the first step in that in the north is the launch of a Highland-specific manifesto.

Mr Salmond said it was a “call to arms” and it will be written by Cllr Rosie to counter those issues that made him “increasingly disillusioned” with the SNP.

It comes ahead of next week's open meeting in Inverness with Mr Salmond and Cllr Rosie to discuss the north including the A9.

Alex Salmond and Karl Rosie.
Alex Salmond and Karl Rosie.

He will not be working alone because Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil – who is more of a natural rebel, having started bucking wildly in frustration in the latter days of Nicola Sturgeon’s tenure – has offered his support.

In a interview on Alex Salmond’s YouTube channel, the former SNP First Minister asked the former SNP councillor: “You've taken on the substantial task of being the main drafter along with others of a specific Highland manifesto for Alba – what sort of thing will feature in that call to arms?”

Cllr Rosie said: “For me that presents a level opportunity and I think Angus touched on it when you think of modern progressive democracies across Europe and then compare and contrast that with where we are in the Highlands, in my area.

“You can think about transport as one example. Now you can get on a train in Edinburgh and you can travel to Paris and be on the Champs-Élysées drinking a coffee, watching the world go by quicker than that journey will take to get up to Wick.

“So you know, these are the types of policies that I want to see but we should not be surprised when we face these depopulation figures.

"How can we expect young people to consider making a future by remaining in the Highlands and contribute to the services that we all expect and deserve and be content with bringing up families in the area when we face these situations.

“So, I think we've got to absolutely tap into the opportunities in the design of a manifesto. What is so key is what people say to me: What's appropriate in Lochinver is certainly not appropriate in London and not in Helmsdale, Golspie or Glasgow, so people have got these solutions.

“So we need to share the power with them, we can do that through design and local government and ensuring that funding is there and working in collaboration and partnership with industry and business.

“So that is the type of manifesto I want to build and I will work with anyone who wants to contribute to that in a meaningful way.”

For Mr MacNeil that rang true, he argued that Scotland needs widespread reform of local government to tackle the pernicious effects of depopulation, possibly looking at Switzerland as a model.

“You're absolutely spot on about the depopulation I think,” he said. “By 2050, the population of Ireland is going up 20 per cent, Iceland by 32 per cent, Norway and Denmark 15 per cent, and the Faroes up yet another six per cent.

“And we in Scotland are meant to fall. I think the Hebrides are the worst of that and the Highlands wouldn't be far behind. I mean, you said you've got a lot of assistance there but if I can contribute in any way I'd be happy to help obviously under a Scotland United banner.

“But we've got to move things forward in Scotland and one of the other things I feel that we should be moving forward in Scotland is that we should have maybe a Swiss idea of 26 Cantons rather than a centralised country.

“I think if there's a criticism I have to make of Ireland is that they have centralised in Dublin, almost making themselves a mini Britain if you like, when they should have perhaps decentralised and we can be ready for that in Scotland.”

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