ALEX Salmond has added to tensions in the Yes movement by telling Nicola Sturgeon to hurry up with independence - while claiming he wants their feuding to stop.

Mr Salmond said the Westminster crisis over Brexit meant there was “not likely to be a better time to force the issue”.

He told the Sunday National: “Nicola should be concentrating all her energies on the independence agenda when we will never have better circumstances.

“As far as I am concerned Westminster’s Brexit difficulty should be Scotland’s opportunity.

“Right now, the Westminster political establishment is at its weakest point in my lifetime while the national movement is in good heart.

“There is not likely to be a better time to force the issue.”

The Scottish Tories said the war between the Yes movement's two biggest beasts was getting worse by the day, and urged Ms Sturgeon "to put Alex Salmond back in his box".

Mr Salmond’s comments come amid open division in the Yes movement over the timing of Indyref2.

Ms Sturgeon has said she will give an update on timing in “a matter of weeks”, but appears to be playing a long game, focusing for now on a People’s Vote over Brexit.

However an increasingly strident Mr Salmond - buoyed by his legal win against the Scottish Government over its botched misconduct probe into him - is pushing for immediate action.

The split between the past and present first ministers has led to a bitter briefing war.

Ms Sturgeon’s office has accused the “other side” of "smears" and waging a “vendetta".

Mr Salmond blamed the “unionist press” for “provoking a response”, but admitted he had told his own spinners and proxies to stop getting involved.

He said: “It takes two to tango and I’m just not playing this game. I have told my team that we are not getting involved. This ‘uncivil war’ stops now.”

However Ms Salmond’s comments only highlighted the disagreements over Indyref2.

The Sunday Times reported Ms Sturgeon has been warned by senior colleagues not to rush into another independence referendum.

Pete Wishart, the SNP’s longest serving MP, told the paper: “We should have a second referendum when we can win it. We are already making progress towards that, with Brexit as the catalyst, but it will be difficult to secure the conditions to make a referendum happen before the next Scottish election.”

Ms Salmond’s former special adviser Alex Bell also said the SNP needed to create a positive case for independence, not try to achieve it on the back of other people’s mistakes.

He said: “The SNP and Yes have to stop seeing independence as a sneaky prize to be won when everyone else is messing up and instead base their campaign on the reality of what Scotland can achieve through an honest understanding of the world.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell has written to Theresa May to urge her to maintain her refusal to grant Holyrood powers for a second independence referendum.

Referring to the the growing pressure on the SNP leader, he said: “It is unlikely that elements of her party will continue to accept further delays, especially if it becomes apparent that there will not be a second European Union referendum.”

Former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars said: “There is no appetite for a second independence referendum, there is no national Yes organisation in place - a prerequisite to success as many Yes activists and voters are not SNP - nio policy work has been done, and thus we are not in a position to deploy the new policies in that post-Brexit new paradigm that will be needed to convince No voters to vote Yes next time.”

Robin McAlpine, of the Common Weal think tank, told the Sunday National: “For a number of reasons, we can no longer realistically get a referendum before 2021.”

Scottish Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden said: "The war between the SNP's two biggest egos is intensifying by the day.

"When they're not feuding over the complaints against Alex Salmond's conduct, they're fighting about the timing of another independence referendum.

"By taking the threat of another vote off the table, Nicola Sturgeon would reassure the Scottish population who don't want a re-run, and put Alex Salmond back in his box."

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie said: “The First Minister must not inflict another divisive referendum on our country in a desperate bid to heal the divisions in the SNP.

“That’s exactly what the Conservatives did with Europe and look where that got us. The SNP should ditch their plans for another referendum and instead work with genuine pro Europeans to avoid the chaos of Brexit.

“Breaking up is hard to do - the SNP at least should see that from Brexit. First Minister, put our country before your party.”

A Scottish Labour source added: "The last thing Scotland needs is more instability and chaos of yet another independence referendum, what our communities need are Labour governments here and in Westminster to end austerity."