A FORMER SNP Cabinet Secretary has backed calls for his party and Scottish Labour to consider a coalition after the next Holyrood election.

Kenny MacAskill said a deal was “long overdue” and would stop Ruth Davidson’s resurgent Scottish Tory party. He said: “If the SNP and Labour continue to knock themselves black and blue, the Tories will just overtake them.”

Devolution has been dominated by hostility between the two parties, ill-feeling caused by clashes on the constitution and rivalry over the pursuit of centre-left voters.

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However, with support for the SNP falling, and the Tories north of the border on the rise, Conservatives are talking up the prospect of Davidson becoming the next First Minister.

Some senior SNP and Labour figures believe one way of stopping Davidson from entering Bute House is for both parties to put aside their rancour and consider a deal in the long term.

David Martin, the veteran Labour MEP, said recently: "We are far away from the next Holyrood elections, but I think the ground work should be being laid now for a potential SNP-Labour coalition that to many will seem unthinkable.”

Speaking to this newspaper, MacAskill, who served as Justice Secretary for seven years, said: “I agree with David Martin.”

He said a potential coalition between Labour and the SNP after the next Holyrood election was “common sense” and was the “logical relationship in Scotland".

He said the “election result might make it essential”, adding: “Such coalitions will have to be considered.”

MacAskill continued: “At some stage, it will have to come about. It is long overdue, The hatred is deep and the divide, as in Ireland, is over the constitution, not necessarily over policies.”

Davidson stands to benefit if Labour and the SNP fail to work together, he said: “The only winners are going to be the forces of reaction and the right.”

The model, MacAskill said, is in the capital, where both parties have formed an administration:

“They have done it in Edinburgh. We are now into a second SNP-Labour coalition. The only issue was who was top dog.”

Describing the hostility between Labour and the SNP, he said the “activist hatred” was “way out of kilter” with voters, who often flipped between voting for both parties.

MacAskill previously called for his party and Labour to form a “progressive alliance” at Westminster, rather than a coalition. However, his comments in relation to Holyrood go further than a loose arrangement.

An obstacle to any future deal would be the SNP’s approach to a second independence referendum.

If the pro-independence parties lost their Holyrood majority, a second plebiscite would be dead for five years and an SNP-Labour deal could be feasible.

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: "We do not support a deal, pact or coalition with the SNP – we plan on replacing the nationalists as the next Scottish government."

An SNP spokesperson said: “While we are always open to cooperating with other parties based on shared values, Labour remain obsessed with attacking the SNP instead of standing up to the Tories and their disastrous plans for an extreme Brexit.

"Labour's acceptance of the need to stay in the single market for at least two years should we have to leave the EU was a positive step – and hopefully they continue to follow the SNP's lead and commit to remaining in the world's biggest marketplace for good."