The new depute leader of the Alba Party has attacked his former party the SNP as “authoritarian” in his first speech in the job.

Addressing the party’s first conference, ex-SNP MP Kenny MacAskill said “now is the time” for Scotland to become independent, adding that the country cannot wait until the recovery from Covid-19 has started.

His full throated attack on his old party came just hours after he was elected Alba’s depute leader, beating Glasgow councillor Michelle Ferns by more than 500 votes.

Mr MacAskill accused the SNP of attacking women’s rights and jailing a journalist – referring to its proposed reforms of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) and the conviction of former diplomat Craig Murray for contempt of court relating to the trial of current Alba leader Alex Salmond.

READ MORE: Alba Party leader Alex Salmond gives first conference speech

Mr Murray was sentenced to eight months in prison after judges found he violated court orders not to identify the accusers in the trial of Mr Salmond – who was cleared of 13 charges of sexual misconduct last year.

HeraldScotland:

Kenny MacAskill and Alex Salmond have been elected Alba Party leaders

“The SNP has sought to entrench power for themselves, rather than delivering independence for our nation,” Mr MacAskill told the conference at Greenock Town Hall.

“Bringing in legislation that is harmful and presiding over decisions that are shameful.

“From the attack on women’s rights to the jailing of a journalist, actions have occurred which I never thought I would see in Scotland, let alone be perpetrated under an SNP administration.”

He continued: “A party that I was once proud to be a member of, but which now acts in an authoritarian and undemocratic manner towards the people, never mind its members.”

READ MORE: Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill confirmed as Alba leadership team

The East Lothian MP was one of the first high profile defections from the SNP to Alba when it was launched in March, and failed to win a seat at Holyrood in May’s election.

He went on to urge members to “get to work” on the campaign for independence.

“The base needs built in our communities, the message needs taken out onto our streets and preparations made for coming elections,” he said.

An SNP spokesman said: “The people of Scotland put their continued trust in the exemplary leadership of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to continue governing Scotland after a landslide result in May’s election which delivered a record share of the vote for the SNP and a cast iron mandate for an independence referendum.”