MEMBERS of the former Militant Tendency have split from Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity party over his backing for the SNP in May's General Election.

The Socialist Party Scotland, which grew out of the hard left Militant Tendency faction, confirmed its decision to quit in a statement accusing Mr Sheridan of moving away from a "principled socialist position".

Mr Sheridan has called on Yes voters in the referendum to back the SNP on May 7.

His call was endorsed by Solidarity following a vote at the party's conference last weekend.

However the decision angered members of the Socialist Party Scotland, one of a number of groups that came together to form Solidarity in 2006 when Mr Sheridan and fellow former MSP Rosemary Byrne left the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).

Four Socialist Party Scotland members are standing in the General Election under the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) banner, the grouping founded by the late Bob Crow.

TUSC is contesting 10 seats in all in Scotland and 125 across the UK as a whole.

A statement issued by the Socialist Party Scotland said: "Tommy Sheridan has been calling for a vote for the Scottish National Party at the Westminster elections since the days following the independence referendum in September last year.

"This has been done at the same time as the SNP-run Scottish Government and local councils have been carrying out brutal Tory austerity.

"Tommy Sheridan and Solidarity's decision marks a significant move away from a principled socialist position and is a step to the right politically.

"Under these circumstances, and despite being founding members of Solidarity in 2006, we can no longer be associated with the approach that Tommy and a majority of Solidarity members are currently taking."

The statement adds: "As we approach the Westminster elections we now have the ridiculous situation of Tommy Sheridan and Solidarity calling for a vote for SNP candidates, even where genuine anti-austerity, trade union and socialist candidates are standing under the banner of the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

"As the most prominent socialist in Scotland, Tommy Sheridan's voice, and now that of a majority of Solidarity members, will be increasingly associated with support for the SNP, a pro-business party that is carrying out cuts.

"This can only damage the reputation of Solidarity as increasing numbers of working class people over time see through the hollow words of the 'anti-austerity' SNP leadership and move into opposition to their cuts policies."

Mr Sheridan's backing for the SNP was a "major mistake," according the the Socialist Party Scotland.

Members said they tried, but failed, to persuade the former SSP MSP to launch a new party after the referendum to build on the success of the left wing pro-Yes campaign, Hope Over Fear, in which Solidarity played a leading role.

Mr Sheridan said: "There was a decision at conference to back the strategy I proposed on September 21 last year, which was to unify the Yes movement by lending our votes to the SNP to maximise the vote for independence, to get rid of nuclear weapons and put anti-austerity at the top of the political agenda.

"We had a comradely debate and we remain comrades. We'll continue to work together in the wider movement. It was a political debate, not a personal debate."