Alex Salmond clashed with Nicola Sturgeon over the timing of an independence referendum, after the SNP leader refused to back calls for a quick exit from the UK.
Ms Sturgeon said she wants to focus on the recovery from the coronavirus crisis while building support for another vote on Scotland’s future.
The approach means the SNP group at Holyrood might be asked to snub any push at Holyrood for a fast referendum – if Alex Salmond and other Alba candidates are elected after May 6.
Mr Salmond, rallying for support in Falkirk on Friday, said Scotland cannot afford to wait and branded the main parties – which includes the SNP – as the “feeble five”.
He said: “This crystallises the difference of strategy in this election campaign.
“Alba believes that for Scotland to recover from the coronavirus we need the financial recovery powers that we can only have through independence.
“Our economic recovery can’t wait until next year, or the year after, it must be a recovery led by Scotland’s Government right now.”
‘Covid is the priority’
Ms Sturgeon had earlier set out her position in an exclusive interview, telling us: “For as long as it takes, getting us through the acute phase of Covid is my absolute priority.
“Getting the recovery under way is absolutely, vitally important but when we get to a point where the crisis is behind us, it really matters that we get to choose what kind of future we want.”
Ms Sturgeon was also asked on BBC Radio 4 whether she would vote with the Alba Party for an immediate negotiation.
“I don’t believe we should propose a referendum right at this moment,” she responded.
The SNP leader also admitted Scotland will need to confront border issues with the rest of the UK to rejoin the EU.
She asserted Scotland would remain in the UK-Ireland common travel area, saying “nobody with any shred of credibility” suggests otherwise.
And she said it “could be years” before nuclear missiles are removed from Faslane on the Clyde.
The constitution is not the only fault line between the two politicians. Their friendship was destroyed in the aftermath of allegations about Mr Salmond’s conduct in office.
Mr Salmond, standing for election on the North East regional ballot paper next week, used a campaigning event at the Falkirk Wheel landmark to take another swipe at his former party.
He attacked the BBC for not giving his new party enough air time and criticised Ms Sturgeon’s plan for the first 100 days in a re-elected SNP government, which does not include pushing for a referendum.
Mr Salmond said: “Boris Johnson is currently on the ropes as Prime Minister and already it has been suggested that we give him a 100-day holiday from having to address the democratic will of Scotland.”
Addressing his air time on the BBC, Mr Salmond said: “Alba, on many measurements – membership, Panelbase opinion polls, and policy relevance and distinctiveness – has already overtaken the Lib Dems in this campaign but yet is receiving only a bare fraction of the coverage allocated to the ‘feeble five’.
“There is no way that is fair, reasonable or democratic.”