WHEN Labour was trying to make itself electable again in the 1990s its media advisers developed a tick-box approach to avoiding policies and attitudes that might discourage voters. It was called “eliminating the negatives”. Alba seems to be doing precisely the reverse. In its short life, Alex Salmond's party appears to be piling up as many negatives as possible.

Offensive remarks about racial minorities: check. Arouse the antagonism of LGBT community – check. Invite accusations of anti-English racism – check. Deeply unpopular leader – check. All they need to do now is kick away a few wheelchairs from disabled people and advocate seal pup killing and they'd have antagonised every minorities lobby in the land. I joke, perhaps, but not much. It's been rather like an episode of The Thick of It.

Some might find Alba refreshingly unapologetic in its avoidance of political correctness. However, it's not politically savvy to allow yourself to be portrayed as cousin to Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, especially when you're not actually right wing. The prominent independence supporters who've backed Alba, like the former SNP Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill or Nicola Sturgeon's former adviser, Noel Dolan, could never be described as social conservatives, let alone racist homophobes.

Some of it is human error. The Alba candidate, boxer Alex Arthur, apologised profusely for his remarks about the eating habits of Romanian immigrants. But the Bannockburn election broadcast was a deliberate attempt to link modern Scottish nationalism with our bloody history of war with England. It hailed flag-waving independence marchers on Arthur's Seat as a modern incarnation of Scots warriors who “broke the spine of English superiority”.

For the last 30 years, the SNP has shied away from anti-English sentiment. “Civic nationalists”, like Ms Sturgeon, loathe the romantic nationalism of Bruce, Wallace and the wars of independence. That was one reason she boycotted the very Edinburgh march that was celebrated by the Alba video. It's just too Braveheart. Speaking of foreign domination doesn't make sense in an age when Scots have full civil and human rights, their own parliament and freedom to express any political or religious views they choose. At least they did until the Hate Crime Bill, but that can hardly be blamed on the English since it was an SNP government that introduced it.

Read more: Independence is in Sturgeon’s DNA just as much as Salmond’s. However ...

Perhaps the independence movement has been a little too precious in the past about avoiding the symbols and passions of nationhood. Most Scottish voters don't vote SNP for its polices on the environment or transgender rights, but because they love Scotland and want their country to be free of Westminster control. But the Alba video was just too close to the anti-English bone. The party should refrain from demonising English people because many independence supporters – like Mr Dolan – are actually English. A lot of English people participated in that 2019 Edinburgh march because they opposed Brexit. I noticed almost as many EU flags as Saltires.

Similarly, Alba's approach to LGBTQ needs work, to say the least. It doesn't do any good to accuse Stonewall, and by association the Scottish Government, of plotting to lower the age of sexual consent to10 as candidate Margaret Lynch did at the Alba Women's Conference at the weekend. This sounds disturbingly like the old smear that gay people are all child-abusers. Organisations like Stonewall have been as determined to reject the taint of paedophilia as the SNP has been to reject the taint of anti-English racism.

Alba has been accused of paying the Braveheart card

Alba has been accused of paying the Braveheart card

Admittedly, there was something very odd about the International Gay and Lesbian Alliance (IGLA) supporting a charter that calls for the abolition of “laws limiting the legal capacity of adolescents, people with disabilities and other groups to provide consent to sex”. Stonewall Scotland is a partner of the IGLA. But sometimes you have to accept what organisations say about themselves: namely that they are adamantly opposed to sex with children and do not want to lower the age of consent.

There is a very good reason too why Alba needs avoid the tactics of guilt by association and misrepresentation. Many of its women members are similarly smeared as transphobes and even homophobes because they oppose the Scottish Government's plans to allow trans people to self-identify as women. The LGBTQ community has a much bigger megaphone than Alba, and has the Scottish Government's media machine on side to portray them as moral neanderthals.

Read more: The SNP say Alex Salmond's unfit for office, but that doesn't mean people won't vote for him

It is actually very difficult to locate Alba on any known political spectrum because it is so new. There is certainly a gap in the political market in Scotland for a new organisation of the right, or perhaps the alt right. All the more reason for Alba to avoid letting Ms Sturgeon place it there. It needs to stress its social liberalism and make more of its feminist credentials. Two of Alba's leading defectors from the SNP are Caroline McAllister and Lynne Anderson. They were the former SNP women's convener and equalities convener respectively. If they're right wing bigots then so are all the SNP members who voted them onto the party National Executive in November.

It may seem unfair, but there is little point in Alba insisting it supports inclusion and minority rights when the media is saturated with claims that it is a party of creeps led by a moral delinquent. Mr Salmond arrived on the election scene carrying a whole baggage train of negatives, dating from his criminal trial. He was acquitted of all criminal action, but the irresponsible comments of his legal counsel, sounding off in public about his bad behaviour, provided a ton of negative campaign material. The quotes are all there.

Mr Salmond remains an extremely unpopular politician, according to opinion polls, and needs to address this. His new party has had a troubled and chaotic start. Early polling has been poor and the party appears to have made every PR mistake in the book. Perhaps the hiatus caused by the death of Prince Philip will give Alba a chance to stabilise and reset. It certainly needs to get its act together if it doesn't want to become the McMonster Raving Looney Party.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald