Alex Salmond has hit out at Nicola Sturgeon after his attempt at a political comeback looked set to end in a humiliating failure.
The former First Minister said pro-independence voters had “missed an opportunity” by failing to back his new Alba Party, which he conceded would fail to win a single seat.
He predicted Ms Sturgeon, who is set to be returned as First Minister in a pro-independence parliament once SNP and Green seats are combined, would continue to “prevaricate” over separation.
He also claimed his new party had “helped” the SNP in the Scottish election by taking “venom” from the mainstream media that would otherwise have been directed at Ms Sturgeon, and because Alba had made her appear “more moderate”.
Mr Salmond has repeatedly called for his former party to take more extreme positions in seeking to achieve the break-up of the UK, floating “alternative” routes to independence other than a legally-binding referendum and claiming a breakaway Scottish state should refuse to take on its share of UK debt.
“Nicola will prevaricate,” he said. “Nicola lost her nerve on independence back in 2017 and has never recovered it, it’s as simple as that. As Alba grows, as it will, it will be demonstrated everything we said is correct.”
Mr Salmond was referring to Ms Sturgeon abandoning her plans for a new referendum after the SNP lost a third of its Westminster seats in the UK general election almost four years ago.
He also attacked unnamed members of the SNP leadership as “among the most graceless people I’ve come across” and singled out the “poseur” John Nicolson, the SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, for particular criticism.
Mr Salmond, speaking in an online interview with Alba-supporting bloggers, said that while unionists had successfully voted tactically to defeat the SNP in key constituencies, pro-independence supporters had failed to do so, meaning his attempt to deliver a pro-independence “supermajority” failed.
Mr Salmond’s strategy had centred around persuading SNP supporters to vote Alba with their second ballot paper, which under Scottish elections are used to elect regional MSPs under a system of proportional representation.
Alex Salmond launches his new political party in March this year.
However, his campaign was plagued by questions over his past conduct towards female staffers while he was First Minister. At his trial, Mr Salmond was cleared of all 13 sex assault charges but did admit to inappropriate conduct, including an occasion when he engaged in what he described as a "sleepy cuddle" with a staff member at his official residence.
“I’ve won so many elections I don’t mind losing a few,” Mr Salmond said. “There was a good result available for us and we didn’t quite get there.
“The SNP sends its troops over the top to have not just one million votes wasted, but let in unionists by the back door.
“Everything Alba said has come true, and the extent of the opportunity missed will be clear for all to see.”
George Galloway, the former MP who was standing on a Unionist ticket, was also set to fail to win enough votes to be elected to Holyrood.