THE SNP’s former deputy leader has accused Nicola Sturgeon of running a “one-person” government and demonstrating a repeated lack of “intellectual rigour”.

Jim Sillars claimed “uncritical praise” of the First Minister had led to flawed decisions such as pushing for a second independence referendum and a fracking ban.

He said: “The SNP Government is a one-person show in which the First Minister calls not only the tune, but writes the verses, with ‘discussion’ and ‘debate’ words not in her lexicon.”

He said “mindless admiration” was bad for a party, but ultimately worse for its subject.

Mr Sillars, who was Alex Salmond’s deputy in the early 1990s, said the problem could be traced to the “Strong Leader syndrome” that developed under Mr Salmond.

Writing on the Think Scotland website, Mr Sillars also said the contest for the SNP’s deputy leadership was beset by a lack of clear thinking about a second referendum, with two of the three candidates agitating for a new vote before the 2021 Holyrood election.

Sillars: Sturgeon should hand over to "someone better"

He said: “I have been concerned about the lack of intellectual rigour within the SNP.

“The cry for an early referendum on independence immediately following the EU result is a case in point.

“Another is in the contest for the party’s deputy leader, where a bidding battle for a referendum date is underway: despite (a) there has been no examination of why we lost; (b) as a consequence there have been no new policy positions upon which to campaign; (c) the central organisation essential to a successful campaign does not exist; (d) there are no funds; and, (e) Yes has not moved from its polls’ position of 46 per cent.

“These factors would demand caution, and suggest a move towards a second independence referendum only be made when they are attended to."

Yes supporters "turning in on themselves", Sillars admits

He went on: “The lack of intellectual vigour can be traced to the ‘Strong Leader’ syndrome that emerged during Alex Salmond’s time at the top, and continues under Nicola Sturgeon.

“The result of the uncritical praise of a leader has brought about what everyone in the Holyrood SNP parliamentary party, and the group at Westminster, knows but will not say in public – that the SNP Government is a one-person show in which the First Minister calls not only the tune, but writes the verses, with ‘discussion’ and ‘debate’ words not in her lexicon.”

He said this “inevitable but sorry state of affairs” had brought about a ban on GM crops - for “presentational” reasons - and the effective ban on fracking.

He said there was a social case for fracking to provide cheaper energy for homes.

However shale gas, which is imported from the US by Ineos for its Grangemouth refinery, is principally used as a precursor in the petrochemical industry in Scotland, not fuel.

Sillars: Sturgeon needs to stop "grandstanding" and drop the PR gimmicks

Referring to billionaire Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe, Mr Sillars questioned whether the SNP’s announcement of an effective ban on fracking last year was driven by personal animus, and suggested the Scottish Government should collaborate with the firm instead.

He wrote: “Is it because Ineos wants to frack and we don’t like the guy who owns it? A ban through the dislike of an individual is not a luxury our economy can afford.

“But in any event that dislike can be tempered by some innovative thinking.

“We are, I believe, to have a public-owned low cost energy company, and it would seem logical that it should tap into Ineos technical capability in a joint-owned company from which the public would not only get the benefits of taxation, but part of the profits from fracking.

“A new kind of public-private funded enterprise in which there is no cost to the public, for a change.

But we are in a period when our society is subject to levels of hysteria, with our political elite seemingly captured by a combination of Green scaremongering and the desire for virtue signalling, eliminating rational discussion and debate. We must hope that the malady is not permanent.”

Ineos last week accused the SNP government of creating an “Alice in Wonderland” situation, after taking ministers to court in an attempt to overturn the fracking ban.

Despite Ms Sturgeon and energy minister Paul Wheelhouse telling MSPs that fracking had been banned, the government told the Court of Session that there was no ban after all.

Advocate James Mure QC said that had been a “gloss” and the language of a “press statement” and in reality, ministers had yet to adopt a final position on fracking.

The controversial gas extraction technology involves pumping water and chemicals at high pressure into shale beds to release methane. Critics say it is risk to public health and the climate, while its advocates say it would secure thousands of jobs and boost the economy.

Mr Sillars also points out the contradiction between the SNP supporting North Sea oil and gas extraction while rejecting fracking as potentially harmful to the environment.

An SNP spokesperson said: "Jim Sillars is entitled to his views – but on fracking, on GM crops, on Brexit and many other issues he is completely out of step with the vast majority of SNP members and with public opinion in Scotland."