JIM Sillars has said the current SNP is incapable of doing the work required to deliver Scottish independence.

The party's former deputy leader, who regularly criticised the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, said following "recent events" the Yes movement required to pause and develop a new economic and social case for independence.

He did not advocate that supporters of independence back other parties but instead called for the movement to pause and draw up fresh intellectual arguments for leaving the UK.

He said after this work had been done, which could take "some years", activists could then see then what how the SNP was placed and whether it was ready again to make progress its founding goal.

"Many people will now in the independence movement call into question whether the SNP is the instrument that we can rely upon to take us to independence. I think there must now be a serious question mark over it," he said.

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"Let me tell you I am not surprised at the mess. As anyone who has read my memoir knows I have said the cult of personality always ends in tears. And I pointed out some of the problems internally to the party.

"So for the next few weeks I am hoping to be able to talk to a number of people in the independence movement to ensure that it can stand alone and is not damaged by the mess the SNP finds itself in. We have to clearly distinguish in the public mind the SNP is not the independence movement."

The Herald:

Police outside the home of Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell while a search was carried out at the property near Glasgow last week.   Photo PA.

While the SNP was founded to bring about independence there are now smaller parties including Alba, set up by former SNP leader and First Minister Alex Salmond, and the Scottish Greens, which support the aim.

He added: "What we in the independence movement have to do now is take a careful objective assessment arising out of recent events and if we conclude that the SNP is not the instrument that can take us to independence then we have to think what we do in that circumstance.

"And that doesn't necessarily mean a new political party. I think the movement now has to come to the conclusion that it should no longer be prepared to be led by the SNP because the SNP has manifestly failed the movement.

READ MORE: Police end search of home of Peter Murrell and Nicola Sturgeon

"From the day after Brexit when all we could get out of Nicola Sturgeon was the mantra of demanding a second referendum we have had six wasted years in which no serious work has been done.

"She has been quite happy to see people in the movement marching when what in fact we required was thinking and doing the necessary work to produce the economic and social policy that will convince a substantial majority that independence is the only solution to Scotland's problems."

Mr Sillars said the independence movement was splintered with groups working separately with no coherence over what they were doing.

The Herald:

"We should really be thinking on a national organisation basis," he added.

"Before any parties become involved the independence movement has to win the high ground intellectually, on the economic argument and on the kind of social vision for Scotland that we will have.

"Then it can be transferred to the parties that support independence."

He said the SNP had "failed" to make convincing arguments and that therefore the independence movement would have to do so.

"I am sorry to say this to the people in the movement but what we require now is patience during which we do the work. This is not going to be a short term measure. We have a great deal of repair work to be done.

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"What the state of the parties will be when the work is done down the road, which will take a few years, then we have to wait and see where those instruments are. Getting the work done is absolutely essential before anyone talking about parties being the instrument.

"If the SNP, which I don't regard as being the instrument today, wants to be the instrument in the future or the main instrument in the future,  then it will have to be a very different SNP than the one that now exists."

He added: "Right now we have a plethora of [independence supporting parties]. My concern is the movement and work and that work is going to require patience and acceptance that there is no quick decision on independence coming in the next two or three years. Do the work first and we'll see what the situation is with parties at the end of that because the main party [of independence] is incapable of doing the work." 

READ MORE: 'I don’t think Scottish independence can be secured right now'

Mr Sillars made his intervention after the SNP's former chief executive Peter Murrell, who is Nicola Sturgeon's husband, was arrested on Wednesday morning by police investigating the SNP's finances. Mr Murrell was later released without charge pending further investigation. Police officers also searched the couple's home near Glasgow and the SNP's headquarters in Edinburgh removing items in crates.

At a briefing at Bute House on Thursday the new First Minister Humza Yousaf said Scotland becoming independent within five years still remained a “realistic” goal.

A poll released by Redfield-Wilton on Tuesday before the arrest had shown a 6 per cent lead for No if Scotland was to hold another independence referendum.

However, a poll published on Saturday last week, carried out by Savanta for the Scotsman suggested independence support, has barely changed, dropping just one point when don't knows are excluded to 48 per cent, with support for staying in the Union at 52 per cent.

READ MORE: 'Did police tell Nicola Sturgeon Peter Murrell may face arrest?'

Mr Yousaf said it was still “realistic” to suggest Scotland could be independent within five years, but added: “I’m not saying we absolutely will, given that none of us can say with absolute certainty what the timeline looks like, and we’ve seen events can change.

“We’re starting at the basis where support for independence is around about 50-50, we’re starting at a strong base.”

Mr Yousaf was candid about the impact the arrest of Mr Murrell, and the fractious leadership election which preceded it, would have on support for his party and for Scottish independence, but said this could present an opportunity for the "next generation" of the party to shine.

While the polling appears to suggest support for independence is stable, it has also found a fall in backing for the SNP.

The Savanta survey showed the the party would lose 18 seats to Scottish Labour at the next general election, expected next year, if the vote was held the next day.

Asked at the Bute House briefing if he would resign if his party lost ten MPs at the general election, he said he would be fighting to win the election.

He said: “When I go into elections, I go into win as much as I did going into this contest. I do not go into elections to lose seats."

During the SNP leadership election, Mr Yousaf pledged that he would be "first activist" as well as First Minister if he won the contest.

After his victory he pledged to put the independence drive into "fifth gear" later announcing a minister for independence to push forward with the aim and co-ordinate work in government.

An SNP spokesperson said: "Nothing Jim Sillars says can be taken seriously after he called for independence to be 'de-prioritised'."