Former SNP leader Alex Salmond has said Humza Yousaf has “days to save his First Ministership” following the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election defeat.
The SNP came a distant second to Scottish Labour, in a result Sir Keir Starmer has described as “seismic”.
Despite being the two front-runners for the entirety of the race, the SNP’s Katy Loudon lost with a more than 20% swing to Labour’s Michael Shanks.
Speaking to the PA news agency, Alba Party leader Mr Salmond – who has been an open critic of the SNP since he jumped ship ahead of the 2021 election – sought to heap pressure on the man he appointed as a minister for the first time.
“(The result) is something that the SNP have been asking for,” he said.
“I see that Humza says it’s disappointing, well I don’t think that quite gets the enormity of what he’s facing.
“In my view, Humza’s got days to save his First Ministership.”
While he said Mr Yousaf “inherited an appalling legacy” from Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Salmond claimed the First Minister is “making things much worse” and has “fallen on his face in spectacular fashion”.
Speaking to the PA news agency later, Mr Yousaf said: “We’re not thinking about standing on anything other than the SNP’s message.
“We will reflect, we’ll reorganise, we’ll regroup as a political party.
“We are the biggest key player in the independence movement, I think that’s without any shadow of a doubt from anybody.
“We do that, of course, within the Scottish Government with a co-operation agreement with the Green Party.”
Mr Salmond has been outspoken about his support for Margaret Ferrier, whose ousting paved the way for the by-election, accusing the SNP of “hanging her out to dry”.
Ms Ferrier was found to have broken Covid regulations by travelling from London to Glasgow and around her constituency after testing positive for the virus in 2020.
She was immediately stripped of the SNP whip and kicked out of the party, but sat as an independent until a recall petition over the summer sealed her fate.
Mr Salmond’s party did not stand in the election, instead calling for all independence-supporting parties to strike a deal and coalesce behind a single candidate – which would then be repeated across the country in the next general election.
He claimed a “Scotland united” deal, as his party has called it, would have seen independence supporters turn out in higher numbers to back the SNP, meaning Labour would not have won the majority of votes in the by-election.