A former SNP grandee has launched an excoriating attack on the party, its members and leadership team, branding Nicola Sturgeon “Stalin’s wee sister”.  

Jim Sillars, SNP deputy leader during the nineties, called for root and branch reform of the party’s structures in an open letter to members.  

He said he predicted the collapse of the SNP vote in last week’s general election – which saw the loss of 39 Westminster seats – and said the result had been a “referendum” on the performance of the Scottish Government.  

The former SNP MP called for the abolishment of the party’s Chief Executive role – currently occupied by Murray Foote after the resignation of Peter Murell – and its replacement with a new post of General Secretary, elected by party members.  

He also wrote that the majority of the current cabinet “have to go”, to be replaced by MSPs who have been “overlooked” in the past.   

Mr Sillars, who remains an SNP member, has been a thorn in the side of the leadership for many years and has previously backed the Alba Party, donated to Labour’s election fund for Jackie Baillie in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election campaign, and also supported Brexit.  

Jim SillarsJim Sillars (Image: PA)

He wrote that the time had come for members to “take back power” from the party’s top brass with an immediate emergency conference. 

The intervention comes amid a background of infighting within the SNP which has seen the leadership of John Swinney, Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon increasingly come into question.  

In his letter, Mr Sillars, who was deputy leader under Alex Salmond, writes that there is no time for reflection within the SNP, and that wholesale reform is needed 

He said: “(The election result on) 4th. July was inevitable given how the Sturgeon/Swinney era misled the movement, lost its common sense in government, promoted marginal issues as national priorities while the real priorities of the people such as education, housing, NHS, infrastructure, were notable only for the staggering level of incompetence with which they were dealt with. 

“Whether the leadership has the grace to repent is of no matter. It is a busted flush. The people have no regard for them. Last Thursday wasn’t about who the Scots sent to Westminster, it was a referendum on the Scottish Government, and a condemnatory verdict was delivered.  

“Few of the people, and it is they who matter, have any faith that the ones who have run a failed government can, by discovering some hitherto unknown ability, take its governance performance to a better level.” 

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He said that members should form a new 25-member National Executive Committee to drive policy and the campaign for independence forward, with a hand-picked ‘liaison group’ meeting with Scottish Government Ministers on a monthly basis.  

Mr Sillars also advocated new forms of taxation to shore up Scotland’s finances without having to rely on Westminster and widespread reform of the education system.  

However, he also blasted members for sitting on their hands as a “politburo of two” exercised an iron grip on the SNP’s internal machinery. 

Mr Sillars called on SNP members to take back control of the partyMr Sillars called on SNP members to take back control of the party (Image: PA)

He writes: “You (SNP members) acquiesced in changes to the constitution which shifted all power to a leadership cult, with the party then run by Stalin’s wee sister: imposing a politburo of two exercising an iron grip on the organisation, and the annual conference.  

“When you had doubts, you hid behind the mantra of Wheesht for Indy, letting error build on error. You made the mistake of believing that if you openly criticised the ineptitude of the Scottish Government, you were damaging the idea of independence, when in fact by not calling them out that is exactly what you were doing. 

“You got so used to not thinking for yourselves that you allowed the party to be hollowed out intellectually. Intellectual rigour, an indispensable tool for policymaking disappeared when you clapped Nicola’s repeated claims for another referendum, seemingly unaware that the SNP had become just the referendum party committed to the suicidal policy of putting the cart before the horse.” 

Mr Sillars believes that Scottish independence is still possible, but only with a completely reconstructed SNP. 

In his final plea to members, he writes: “There is still a case for optimism. Support for independence remains high. The case for leaving Broken Britain is a strong one.  

“But to make it, to anchor it in work that is incontestable because the homework has been done, the party has to be reconstructed and the tarnished old guard has to step aside. 

“Whether that happens is up to you. It is a responsibility you cannot escape. Another 2024 beckons in 2026 if you dodge it. And if you dodge it, you will be dealing what could be a fatal blow to independence.” 

The SNP has been approached for comment.