By Dan Sanderson  in The Daily Telegraph

A former deputy leader of the SNP has called for a coup to be launched against Nicola Sturgeon before the Holyrood election, as a party civil war over Alex Salmond deepened.

Jim Sillars, a former MP who served as deputy leader in the 1990s, said he would not vote for the SNP at May’s Holyrood election which he said had its “toxic tentacles stretching into and around civic Scotland”.

He also backed claims that Mr Salmond had been the victim of a conspiracy, something dismissed as ridiculous and a “heap of nonsense” by Ms Sturgeon, and claimed SNP voters were facing a similar dilemma to “decent” Republicans in the USA when the party was led by Donald Trump.

“Yes, time is short, but it has not run out,” Mr Sillars wrote, on an online blog. “There needs to be a revolt and a change in leadership, a real sweeping change. The first action falls upon the NEC [the SNP’s ruling body] to demand and create the change.”

He also said those who dismissed Joanna Cherry, a Salmond ally, from the SNP front bench at Westminster last week were guilty of “vilification… not greatly different from that dished out by the Kremlin’s stooges.”

Mr Sillars has become an outspoken critic of Ms Sturgeon over recent years but is still a passionate advocate of Scottish independence. He is not seen as a particularly close ally of Mr Salmond, having fallen out with him over the treatment of his late wife, Margo Macdonald.

Hitting out at SNP members who called for others not to voice their concerns over a fear of damaging the independence cause, he questioned the current leadership’s ability to deliver it and said claims that a new referendum could be held by Christmas were a con.

Nicola Sturgeon with Westminster colleagues Ian Blackford, Martin Docherty Hughes and Brendan O’Hara, West Dunbartonshire and Helensburgh. Picture by Bernie Heaney

“Mike Russell’s Christmas promise is utter garbage,” he said. “He is playing to the indy gallery.  Two minutes thinking about the process and the logistics, shows it cannot happen in that timescale.

“I greatly fear for the Independence cause at this time. I am despondent and disillusioned that a lot of SNP members think those values so minimal as to be unimportant and can be postponed to a later date.

“After Independence you say, but how do you ever deliver that if you have become uncaring, corrupt, an alien to justice on the journey?”

Mr Salmond’s case is just one issue dividing the SNP, with the party also split on independence strategy and trans rights.

Jim Sillars and SNP colleague Joanna Cherry QC, who are both anti Sturgeon.

Neale Hanvey, an MP was also sacked as the party’s vaccines spokesman in the Commons after he donated to an online crowd-funder to raise funds to sue one of his colleagues, Kirsty Blackman.

However, the party has a huge lead in the polls, with Ms Sturgeon’s approval ratings among the general public high. Support for independence was also at record levels.

The SNP was approached for comment about Mr Sillars’ column.


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