NICOLA Sturgeon has appeared to make a thinly-veiled attack on Alex Salmond’s Alba Party, criticising those who “treat politics like a game” and put “self-interest” above the country’s interests.

In an online speech to the SNP’s campaign conference, the First Minister did not menton her predecessor or his new comeback vehicle by name.

However she seemed to have Mr Salmond, who she claims is driven by ego and in unfit for public office, squarely in her sights in one section of her address.

She said: “When I became First Minister I could never have imagined leading Scotland through a crisis like this.

“The last year has tested me on so many levels - as I know it has everyone else.

“It has made me reflect on what really matters in life - and on what matters in politics and political leadership too.

“Things that once seemed desperately important feel so much less so now.

“I don’t have much time these days for the ''who’s up/who’s down' approach to politics.

READ MORE: New SNP to Alba defection ahead of Nicola Sturgeon campaign speech

“And I definitely have much less patience for those who treat politics like a game - and for indulging anyone who puts self interest ahead of the country’s best interests.

“If the last year has taught us anything it’s that politics is about improving people’s lives or it is about nothing at all.”


She added: “This campaign is also an opportunity to think about, and debate, the kind of country we want to build after the pandemic.

“In Scotland, despite the political sound and fury that so often dominates our discourse - I suspect there is quite substantial agreement about the kind of nation we want to be.”

The swipe came hours after Mr Salmond’s Alba Party announced yet another defection from the SNP, with Glasgow councillor Michelle Ferns switching parties.

She joins councillors from Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire, as well as MPs Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey.

READ MORE: Tommy Sheridan joins Alex Salmond's new party

Alba launched on Friday with the aim of electing pro-independence MSPs through the Holyrood list in May to create a “supermajority” for Yes.

In an interview in a Sunday newspaper, Mr Sturgeon said Mr Salmond’s ego was in charge, and he ought to quit the public stage given his past inappropriate behaviour with women.

Mr Salmond has urged his supporters back the SNP in constituencies and Alba on the list.

However Ms Sturgeon made it clear she wanted both kinds of vote, and suggested only that would give her the mandate to bring about independence.

She concluded today: “My message in this vital election - given the times we are living through, perhaps the most important election in our country’s history - is this:

“For the strong, experienced leadership that the country needs at this time of crisis;

“For a bold, progressive, ambitious policy programme to kickstart our recovery from Covid;

“And to secure the right to choose our independence;

“Vote to re-elect me as your First Minister and the SNP as your government.

“Give us the mandate we need to get things done.

“I am asking you to cast both votes for the SNP on May 6th.

“And, together, let’s get on with the job of building a country to be proud of.”

Earlier in her speech, Ms Sturgeon stressed her experience and willingness to admit and learn from mistakes, and focused on the recovery from the pandemic and independence.

She said: “In this election I am asking you to re-elect me as First Minister - to lead us through and out of this crisis, and then onto recovery.

“We must focus - first and foremost - on the difficult decisions that are still needed to make sure we don’t give Covid the upper hand again.

“We have come too far to slip back again - so we must not take our eye off the ball.”

She made repeated attacks on Boris Johnson and the Tories, and accused the UK Government of trying to undermine devolution.

READ MORE: Tom Gordon - Tommy Sheridan offers an unhappy lesson for the SNP

Arguing the recovery and independence are intertwined, not a binary choice, she said: “There is a question all of us in Scotland need to ask ourselves.

“Who is best placed to decide and shape the kind of country we want to be after the pandemic – the people of Scotland and governments, of whatever party, elected by us; or Westminster governments and politicians like Boris Johnson?

“I believe Scotland’s recovery should be in Scotland’s hands.

“Independence is not a distraction from recovery. It is essential to secure a recovery that is made here in Scotland and based on the values the majority of us subscribe to.

“In an independent Scotland we will have the powers and tools we need to build the country so many of us want to see. Never again will it be possible for a Westminster government to take Scotland in the wrong direction.”

On policy, she said a re-elected SNP government would establish at least one “fast track cancer diagnostic centre” in each of the 14 regional health boards.

She also pledged to double a devolved top-up benefit for low income families as part of a “national mission” to end child poverty, which rose last year.

She said: “I want to make ending child poverty a driving mission for the next Parliament.

“If we are re-elected on May 6, we will - over the course of the next term - increase the Scottish Child Payment from £10 per week for each eligible child to £20 per week.

“It’s time to end the scandal of child poverty and this will help do it.

“It is a downpayment on what will be possible when we have the full powers over tax and social security that only independence can deliver.”

READ MORE: Alex Salmond says he wants to help write next independence White Paper

She added: “We are no better or worse than anyone else, but nobody cares more about Scotland and nobody will do a better job of building the country we know is possible than the people who live here.

“That’s why I believe people in Scotland have the right to decide their own future in an

independence referendum, when this current crisis has passed.

“So that Scotland’s recovery will be in Scotland’s hands. So we can build the Scotland that we know we can be – a country of compassion, equality and love.”