ALEX Salmond has said his Alba party will carry on fighting for independence for at least another four years despite its second electoral disaster.

The former First Minister admitted the party had not made the electoral “breakthrough” he claimed was on the cards just last month after none of its 111 candidates was elected.

He said the next Holyrood election in 2026 was now Alba’s “number one target”, but did not say whether he would still be its leader by then.

He blamed the SNP for holding Alba back by urging voters not to use the preferential voting system to support any other party. 

“Alba is undaunted and will continue to press hard on the urgency of independence,” he said. 

Mr Salmond also said that Alba would campaign as part of the broader Yes movement if Nicola Sturgeon held her planned second independence referendum next year.

However he also said that if, as is widely expected, his successor failed to hold it, the SNP would “reap the electoral whirlwind”.

Alba failed to win any MSPs via the regional list system in last year’s Holyrood election, even though it needed just 5 or 6 per cent of the vote to do so, polling just 1.7% nationwide.

The electoral arithmetic for the local elections was far tougher, with the party needing 20% plus one to get a councillor elected in a four-member ward, and 25% plus one in a three-member ward.

Mr Salmond, who did not stand for election himself as he is pursuing TV work in London, said: “Our 111 candidates fought a fine campaign and our vote registered everywhere. 

“In a number of wards the Alba vote came in at over 5 per cent but the instruction from the SNP leadership not to use preferences to support other independence candidates now condemns most Scottish councils to control by unionists. 

“We hoped to register gains and did not make the breakthrough we sought, albeit it went to the sixth redistribution before Brian Topping went out in Fraserburgh. 

“However the awareness of Alba is much, much greater than previously. We found people friendly and receptive to the Alba message but still to be convinced about the vote.

“Alba is undaunted and will continue to press hard on the urgency of independence. 

“It was Alba pressure which brought discussion on the timing of an independence ballot to the fore in this election. 

“In the event of the promised referendum next year our party will unite with others behind the YES campaign. If, however, it does not take place then the SNP will reap the electoral whirlwind in coming elections.

“ALab is also focused primarily on the tactic of maximising the pro-independence votes at Holyrood and the next Holyrood poll is our number one target. 

“However, in the meantime we will continue to make the positive case for the urgency and primacy of independence with launches of the Wee Alba book across the country.”

Alba’s general secretary was among those who failed to get elected under the new banner.

Chris McEleny, the former SNP group leader on Inverclyde Council, lost his seat after being deserted by voters. He had been seen as Alba’s best prospect in the election.

However he picked up just 126 of the 4,774 first preference votes in the Inverclyde West ward, the second lowest of the seven candidates standing.

He was beaten by Labour’s Martin McCluskey, the SNP’s Sandra Reynolds and Independent Lynne Quinn in the three-member ward.

Mr McEleny’s father Jim, another SNP defector to Alba, also failed to get re-elected under his new banner in Inverclyde Central.

Mr McEleny senior polled just 108 of the 2,828 first preference votes, the lowest of the six candidates standing in the ward.

Last month, Mr Salmond, who did not stand himself in the election because he is pursuing TV work in London, said his party was on the cusp of an “historic electoral breakthrough”.

“The election of the first councillors under the Alba banner will make a difference to the future of Scotland,” he said.