Nicola Sturgeon led the Scottish independence movement “up a cul-de-sac” before resigning as First Minister, according to predecessor Alex Salmond.
The former SNP leader – now head of the pro-independence Alba Party – said the outgoing FM’s decision to step down could allow for a new leader to “reinvigorate” the campaign to leave the UK after the Supreme Court blocked efforts to hold a second vote on the issue in October this year.
Sturgeon called for the next general election to act as a “de-facto” referendum on membership of the union, a move that proved divisive among some members of the party and wider Yes campaign.
Salmond, who stood aside to allow his former protégé to take up office following defeat in the 2014 ballot, admitted he was “very surprised” at the timing of the resignation.
The pair had a bitter falling out over sexual assault allegations against Salmond, of which he was later cleared.
The former FM said there was now “no clear strategy” for the independence movement, but added Sturgeon’s successor would have the power to shape the campaign.
“Well, I’m very surprised. In fact I don’t know anybody who’s not surprised,” he told STV News.
“I mean, I dare say lots of journalists will say, ‘Oh, yes, we knew it was coming’, but I don’t think that’s true. I think generally speaking, everybody is very surprised.
“Independence has been taken into a cul-de-sac. There’s a barrier, a roadblock, and it’ll be the job of everybody who supports independence, in particular, the new First Minister, to find a way through that roadblock or round it.”
He added: “The key task for the next SNP leader and therefore First Minister, whoever it may be, is to find the… to rebuild a strategy towards independence, perhaps to reunify the national movement.”
Sturgeon announced her resignation at a Bute House press conference on Wednesday, citing the “brutality and intensity” of frontline politics.
She said she could “no longer give the job everything it deserved” more than eight years after taking office.