Independence campaigners should do “less marching and more listening”, according to former SNP justice secretary Kenny MacAskill.
His comments follow a series of pro-independence events across Scotland including an annual march in Glasgow earlier this year which saw a record number of supporters take to the streets.
Many want to see the First Minister press ahead with a second referendum on leaving the UK when she provides an update on her position in the autumn.
However, Mr MacAskill called for supporters to be patient, warning that a lack of clarity over Brexit and the unlikelihood of permission being granted by UK ministers mean another vote will not be immediate.
Nicola Sturgeon has previously urged SNP members to concentrate on winning the case for leaving the UK rather than the timing of any ballot.
Writing in The Herald newspaper, Mr MacAskill said caution from the First Minister was wise, but he added that “real leadership” was needed to gain support for her position.
“Just because you’re marching doesn’t mean that you’re any closer to a referendum, let alone to winning it,” he said.
“And that’s where Nicola Sturgeon needs to show real leadership.”
The former MSP added: “She’s waiting for the chance and will take it when it comes.
“There needs to be less marching and more engagement on the doorsteps; listening to people, not telling them what you want them to think.
“So far, the party has been remiss in campaigning and providing direction, which is why others have filled the void with marches and other activities.
“Leadership needs to be shown shown with party HQ building the organisation from the base up not being seen as the First Minister’s fan club.”
An SNP spokesman said: “The base of support for independence has never been as consistently high as it is now - and we agree with Kenny MacAskill about the need to work hard to persuade even more people across the country of the benefits of an independent Scotland.
“Support for independence is likely to rise further as the reality of the Theresa May’s shambolic Brexit plans becomes clearer and in the face of an arrogant Tory government which thinks it can do whatever it wants to Scotland and get away with it.”