ALEX Salmond has made his first foray into politics since being acquitted of sexual assault, with a list of ideas for Nicola Sturgeon on coping with the fallout from Covid. 

The former first minister and SNP MSP Alex Neil today published a joint “action plan” on how to tackle the looming unemployment crisis caused by the pandemic.

They said “innovation” was needed to generate and seize opportunities.

Given Mr Salmond's bitter breakdown in relations with Ms Sturgeon, the paper, which is akin to a mini-manifesto, will be seen as a coded rebuke to the First Minister for not thinking hard enough about the future.

The Scottish Tories said Mr Salmond seemed to be “settling scores” with his predecessor.

The paper is Mr Salmond’s first political contribution of note since he has acquitted of 13 counts of sexual assault at a High Court trial in March.

In the paper, Mr Salmond and Mr Neil say the Scottish  Government should set up a National Housebuilding Company, invest in “shovel-ready” building projects, offer businesses long-term loans at zero interest, and create a Scottish National Renewable Corporation.

They said the ideas would “transform Scotland’s prospects for post-coronavirus economic recovery and avoid mass unemployment” by creating “many thousands of much needed jobs”.  

They also said the Barnett funding formula consequentials for Scotland arising from the UK Government spending review, coupled with the Scottish Government’s own resources, “should be prioritised for this purpose”.

On housing, the authors said the “dire shortage” required more homes for sale and rent.

They proposed a National Housebuilding Company to build an additional 10,000 new houses a year for five years on top of existing Government programmes, most for rent.

On infrastructure, they said the Government should prioritise projects benefiting “health, education, social housing, the environment, road and rail, broadband, water and sewage, anti-flooding measures etc.”

A new Research and Development fund should also use public money to leverage in private cash for “sectors with proven growth potential in Scotland, such as space, renewable energy, cybercrime technologies, games technologies and animal and human life sciences”.

While a Scottish National Renewable Centre would take a stake a 5 per cent stake in licensed energy projects of 20MW and above, with the resulting revenue used to secure a supply chain for green energy, and end crises such as the troubled BiFab yards.

“The time is long past when it is acceptable to see major industrial benefits bypass Scotland. Instead, Scotland’s resources should be used for the benefit of the Scottish people.”

The pair concluded: “Innovation in politics and economics is often driven by necessity and creates change and opportunity. The way out of crisis is to first generate and then seize these opportunities. This paper is our contribution to that Scottish effort.”

Scottish Conservative shadow economy spokesman Maurice Golden said: "The SNP civil war between the Salmond and Sturgeon camps has become visceral but is of little interest to the people of Scotland as they deal with the devastation wrought by Covid.

"While the former First Minister is entitled to his opinion, it is inappropriate to use the pandemic to settles scores with his former friend and protege in Bute House."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are determined to do everything within our current powers to protect jobs and to help Scotland’s economy on its path to a strong and lasting recovery.

"Our recent launch of the Scottish National Investment Bank will be a key part of that, helping to tackle some of the biggest challenges we face.

“Every decision we take has the sole objective of trying to keep the country as safe as possible and to get it through what we hope is now the final stage of the pandemic, with as few lives lost and as little harm to health – and, indeed, as little harm to the overall economy – as possible.

“In terms of housing, we have already delivered almost 96,000 affordable homes since 2007, with more than 66,000 of these for social rent.

"In the four years to 2018-19, Scotland has delivered over 80% more affordable homes per head of population than in both England and Wales, 50% more homes per head than in Northern Ireland, and over eight times more social rented properties per head than in England.”