Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said that the SNP has a “growing membership” and that support for the party “has never been higher”.
In response to being asked why she thinks many former SNP members, and some elected members, see Alex Salmond’s new party, Alba, as a better option than the one she leads, Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m not sure that there is as many SNP members as Mr Salmond might have been hoping for that have seen it that way, but that is for those who want to support and who want to join another party to answer.
“What I know is that I lead a party that has a growing membership right now actually, and a party that has a commanding position in the opinion polls.”
Mr MacAskill said it was a “personal decision” and he wasn’t going to criticise the SNP as he retains many friends within the party.
He had been a member of the SNP for over 40 years and said that “it wasn’t an easy decision to leave”.
It was also announced that West Dunbartonshire Councillor, Caroline McAllister, who was elected SNP National Women’s Officer in November, 2020, has defected and will stand on the West of Scotland list for Alba in May’s Holyrood election.
Several other female SNP members have defected to the Alba Party, including Glasgow councillor Michelle Ferns, who confirmed that she intends to stand on the Glasgow list for the Holyrood election in May, with plans to help the party plans to secure a “supermajority” for Scottish independence.
Despite numerous members defecting, Mr Sturgeon continued to say this morning that she doesn’t think the SNP is divided.
She said: “I think if you look at the breakdown of opinion polls, that tests the views and attitudes of SNP voters, then you will find that, actually, the SNP is the most united of all the parties in Scotland.
“Support for the SNP has never been higher than it is right now and actually support for independence has never been higher than it is right now."
She believes most people in her party recognise that they must focus themselves “outwards on continuing to persuade the Scottish people” that they are more interested in “representing and leading the country at large”, rather than looking inwards and giving “any impression that we’re more interested in just talking to each other”.
She continued to say that anybody that tries to suggest there is a shortcut to independence is “frankly misleading people”.
She said: “It has got to be through a process that is not just legitimate, but is seen to be legitimate so that it can command respect and authority at home and internationally as well.”
Adding that “the only way to make sure you get the government you want is to vote for the party.”