Nicola Sturgeon’s two-year stint as First Minister of Scotland has been marked more by “timidity than radicalism”, according to a former senior Nationalist minister.
Former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill even hinted that the same kind of “management” approach to running Scotland has been adopted to that which Labour employed north of the Border before its fall from power.
Mr MacAskill, who stood down as an MSP at the last election, is now calling for a bolder approach from Ms Sturgeon’s administration to fight the impact of ongoing austerity cuts in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.
“The SNP has become a formidable electoral force, replacing the old Labour machine – able to win elections, but seemingly unsure what to do thereafter,” he said in a newspaper article. “The First Minister’s political agenda has been marked more by timidity than radicalism, other than on gender.
“The danger is that her government end up simply managing, not leading, the political agenda; much indeed, as Labour did in years before devolution. Mitigating austerity but managing decline.
“Action to make Scotland a more prosperous and better place is needed as well as mitigating the worst excesses of the Tory government and trying to avoid the harm Brexit will cause.”
Mr MacAskill said that Ms Sturgeon has shifted the party to the left which “has risks” in former SNP heartland areas.
The comments come ahead of the SNP conference in Glasgow which gets under way on Thursday.
A spokesman for the First Minister defended her record.
“Our electoral success has been built on a record of competent government and standing up for Scotland against Tory austerity,” he said.
“During our time in office we have made necessary, and radical, long-term reforms such as those to police, colleges, health and social care services – precisely so we are equipped to face the challenges of the future.”
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Here’s yet another reminder to Nicola Sturgeon that her priority has to be the day job, and this time it comes from one of her previously most senior MSPs and cabinet colleague.
“While radical elements of the SNP membership want to prioritise another separation vote, the First Minister would do well to ignore this. She has to about-turn, rule it out once and for all, and start explaining how she is going to use powers in Holyrood.”