Nicola Sturgeon went to the Supreme Court with the “wrong argument at the wrong time”, according to Alex Salmond.
The UK’s highest court in London last week considered the case of whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to hold an independence referendum without Westminster’s approval.
Sir James Eadie KC, representing the UK Government, has outlined the opinion that Holyrood does not have the legislative competence to do so.
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, representing the Scottish Government, told the court that resolving the issue is of “exceptional importance” to the people of Scotland and the UK.
A written contribution has also been made in the case by the SNP, who sought to present their own arguments.
Speaking at the Alba Party’s conference on Sunday, Salmond raised concerns over the Scottish Government’s handling of the case.
He suggested there is “narrow ground” of victory in the case, on which the Government had “staked so much”.
The Alba Party leader also explained that a vote would effectively be a “glorified opinion poll”, based on the arguments set out by the Lord Advocate.
“I don’t claim, as many do, to know the result of the proceedings,” Salmond told Alba Party members.
“Indeed, at times I thought the English judges on the panel were beginning to feel sorry for the Scottish case.”
He continued: “However, if against all expectations the Scottish case was to prevail, what exactly would have been won?
“The right to conduct a poll which the Lord Advocate’s own submissions rested on the argument that it would have no practical effect; it would be a glorified opinion poll, not an exercise in Scottish sovereignty.
“That is the narrow ground of victory on which the Scottish Government have staked so much.”
Salmond warned that the option of a referendum could be closed off if the case is lost by the Scottish Government.
He said: “What is to be lost if the Court rules against Scotland? It closes off the referendum route though the Parliament without Westminster’s prior agreement.
“Not only would it stop this First Minister and this Lord Advocate from venturing down that path, it stops any First Minister any any Lord Advocate, even one who believed in the case, from proceeding on that basis.”
The Alba leader indicated that had his party had a candidate elected to the Scottish Parliament, they would have introduced a referendum Bill.
He suggested that this would have improved the chances of the actions in court.
“The Lord Advocate has come in for some criticism over the last few days,” said Salmond.
“Let me say, I do not join it. She was asked to present a case in which she clearly stated she had no confidence.
“The responsibility lies with those who put her in that position.”
Salmond added: “In short, the First Minister went to the wrong court, with the wrong argument at the wrong time and Scotland’s rights as a nation could be the loser.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said the question to the court is intended to achieve legal clarity on whether Holyrood can pass legislation in order to enable a referendum to take place.
“There is a substantial majority in the Scottish Parliament in favour of an independence referendum and therefore a clear democratic mandate,” they said.
“However, as the First Minister has set out, there remains debate over whether the Scottish Parliament has the powers to legislate to hold a referendum.
“Referring this question to the Supreme Court is intended to achieve legal clarity on this point.”