ALEX Salmond has accused the government he once led of "flying the white flag” for spending money earmarked for an independence referendum on other things.

The former First Minister, now leader of the Alba party, launched a vitriolic attack on his old colleagues after John Swinney announced the change at Holyrood.

Setting out the Scottish budget for 2023/24, the deputy First Minister said he was switching the £20million for Indyref2 into the fuel insecurity fund instead.

It followed the UK Supreme Court ruling last month Holyrood cannot hold the  vote without Westminster’s consent, scuppering Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for it in 2023.

Mr Swinney said the Scottish Government still believed the people of Scotland must have their say on self-government in a referendum, and would make financial provisions for it when the opportunity came.

“However at this moment, I must make full use of the resources available to me,” he said.

“One of the reasons why I believe Scotland will be a successful independent country is because of the energy wealth we enjoy. Scotland is a country, with an abundance of renewable energy opportunities. 

“The travesty however, is that despite that strength, too many of our people languish in fuel poverty.

“In order to help our most vulnerable citizens, I intend to utilise the finance earmarked for a Referendum on Independence to make provision to extend our Fuel Insecurity Fund into next year – a further £20m to address yet another failure of the United Kingdom and its policies.”

Opposition parties, who had been calling for the money to be redirected for months, welcomed the move.

But Mr Salmond said it was a clear broken promise.

He said: “The people of Scotland were promised a referendum next year, no ifs no buts, and there is a clear democratic mandate for one. 

“Today the Scottish Government have flown a white flag on that constitutional imperative when they should have been flying a Lion Rampant. 

“The Scottish Government’s decision to concede that there will now not be an independence referendum is even more bizarre considering that only yesterday the SNP led a debate at Westminster calling for one." 

A UK Government source said: “It’s welcome the Scottish Government have finally dropped the pretence of holding a referendum on leaving the UK. 

“Hopefully, there can now be a renewed focus from the Scottish Government on working together with the UK Government on the issues that matter most to the people of Scotland.”

Pamela Nash, of Scotland in Union, added: “We highlighted a number of better ways for the Scottish Government to spend that £20m, one of which was doubling the fuel insecurity fund.

“Fortunately John Swinney has listened and people across Scotland will see that benefit.

“This should encourage the SNP-Green government to focus more on things that people really care about rather than an unhealthy obsession with separation.

“It’s time for the people’s priorities, not the SNP’s.”