ALEX Salmond has accused Nicola Sturgeon of causing "total consternation" in the independence movement due to her "lack of urgency". 

The former first minister criticised Ms Sturgeon's comments last week that she wanted an independence referendum in the first half of the next parliamentary term, but that it "depends on the situation with Covid".

Mr Salmond said it "seems to be that Scotland will not 'be free until after 2023'". 

In a statement, he said: "Now that the campaign hiatus has ended we are picking up the constitutional debate.

"Nicola Sturgeon's comments last week about an independence referendum in 2023 or later have caused total consternation in the national movement.  

READ MORE: Prince Philip: Nicola Sturgeon leads Holyrood condolences to 'extraordinary' Duke of Edinburgh

"It seems to be that Scotland will not 'be free until after 2023', more seriously it seems to indicate a lack of urgency on bringing the independence question to a decision.

"The reality is that Scottish independence is not an alternative to economic recovery from Covid, it is an essential part of building a new, different and better society.  

"For Alba independence is the priority which is why we are putting it front and centre in the election campaign.

"In the power balance that will emerge post election between Scotland and Westminster it is fundamentally true that Boris Johnson will find it substantially more difficult taking on a parliament with an independence supermajority representing a country than he will in framing the debate as party against party, Prime Minister against First Minister.

"Independence is a matter of the national interest not the preserve of one political party as is becoming clear in this election.”

Ms Sturgeon previously dismissed Mr Salmond's talk of an independence supermajority as "daft rhetoric". 

Last week, she said criticism from Alba supporters that she had been too slow in pursuing independence was “nonsense”.

She said: “My preference would be to have the referendum and offer the choice to the people of Scotland within the first half of the parliament, which is a period that runs until the end of 2023.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon - Boris Johnson will not stand in the way of Indyref2

"If in terms of whether that can definitely happen and if so where within that timespan a referendum would actually happen depends on the situation with Covid.

"Right now we are still in the teeth of an acute phase of a pandemic, people are still living under very serious restrictions and as long as that continues, not least because people wouldn't be able to campaign properly.

"We are finding the restrictions of this campaign difficult enough, so for a whole host of reasons we need to get out of the crisis of Covid and then put that choice to the people of Scotland.

"So my preference is within the first half of the parliament but of course the demands and realities of Covid have to be what guides that decision."