Nicola Sturgeon has insisted she wants to win a “simple majority” for the SNP in May’s Holyrood election – rather than the “supermajority” for independence her predecessor Alex Salmond is bidding for.
Ms Sturgeon, the current SNP leader and Scottish First Minister, has claimed Mr Salmond is trying to “game the system” with the launch of his Alba Party.
He was unveiled as the leader of the new party last Friday, as the former first minister looks to make a dramatic return to the Scottish Parliament.
The Alba Party is only fielding candidates in the regional list section of Holyrood’s ballot – with Mr Salmond arguing that by voting for SNP MSPs in the constituency section and for Alba on the list, the next Scottish Parliament could have a “supermajority” of members in favour of independence.
But Ms Sturgeon branded her predecessor a “gambler”, as she stressed: “I am concentrating on winning hopefully a simple majority for the SNP.
“If you want an SNP government, if you want to have me re-elected as First Minister, if you want both those things voting SNP is the only way to bring it about.”
Hitting out at her former friend and mentor, she told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “When Alex Salmond was leader of the SNP he didn’t say what he is saying now.
“What he said then, and he was right then, is the only way to get the government that you want is to vote for the party that will be that government.
“Anything else is trying to gamble with the system, game the system, take a chance on the outcome of the election.
“If you want to see an SNP government elected that then has the ability to deliver an independence referendum, you don’t get that by voting for somebody else, you will only get that by voting SNP.
“Everybody knew Alex Salmond was a gambler, he has never made any secret of it, he backs the horses on an almost daily basis.
“I’m making comment on how I think he is behaving right now. He is seeking to ask people to gamble on the outcome of this election, I don’t think that is the right thing to do.
“I think if you want an SNP government you’ve got to vote for an SNP government, there are many positive reasons to do so.”
Speaking about the SNP, she added: “We are in a commanding position. Support for the SNP has never been higher than it is just now, and actually support for independence has never been higher than it is right now.
“Support for independence under my leadership of the SNP is at a higher level than it has ever been.
“One of the prerequisites of winning and delivering independence is that you build sustained majority support for that. We have never managed to do that before.
“We are now in a position where it could be argued that we are now doing that.
“That is not an easy thing to have done and that has happened over the past couple of years.”
Despite a very public row with Mr Salmond over her Government’s mishandling of sexual harassment allegations made against him, she insisted she does “not think the SNP is divided”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “If you look at the breakdown of opinion polls, that tests the views and attitudes of SNP voters, then you will find the SNP is the most united of all the parties in Scotland.”