CRITICS in the independence movement and SNP rebels delivered a swift – and negative reaction – to the First Minister’s speech yesterday.

The most scathing assessment came from blogger Stuart Campbell, who last year suggested he was considering establishing a rival pro-independence political party, in an article titled “the betrayer”.

Under a picture of Nicola Sturgeon, the Wings Over Scotland website author accused the SNP of a “colossal, criminal dereliction of duty”, and of following a strategy that had “failed utterly”.

His attack came after Sturgeon told supporters there were no “short cuts or clever wheezes” to independence, and urged them not to give in to “impatience and frustration”.

Setting out her next steps on independence, she said she did not rule out seeking a consultative referendum in defiance of UK Government opposition to give Holyrood the powers to hold a new ballot, but added: “My judgement at this stage is that we should use our energies differently.”

Campbell argued no progress had been made by the SNP towards independence since the 2014 vote criticising the party’s strategy and emphasis on stopping Brexit.

He argued the Scottish Government should have used the time since the EU referendum in 2016 to legally test whether Holyrood could hold a referendum without the PM’s agreement.

And he maintained the SNP at Westminster should have used its leverage under Theresa May’s minority Conservative Government to get the powers for Holyrood to hold a referendum in return for supporting a soft Brexit.

“The SNP sought to save Scotland from that fate [of Brexit] not by winning Scots the right to make the decision for themselves via independence, but by instead focusing for three-and-a-half years on overturning the clear democratic choice of England and Wales – a strategy both morally questionable and which never had a credible hope of success,” he wrote.

“While Sturgeon repeatedly insisted that only a “legal” referendum was an acceptable route to independence, not a single step was taken to establish a legal footing for one to be held ... That matter could have been resolved one way or the other at any point since – or indeed before – the EU referendum.”

He added: “Failing a court judgement, the SNP could have used an extremely rare period of arithmetical leverage at Westminster against a comically weak minority government to negotiate a second referendum in return for allowing a relatively soft Brexit deal to pass.

“But the Scottish Government sat on its hands and did nothing but accumulate a pile of worthless mandates while the clock ticked down, and now Scotland stares into the abyss of another decade of destructive Tory rule, denied the protections of the EU, and with the existing mitigatory powers – indeed, perhaps even the very existence – of the Scottish Parliament in grave peril.”

Meanwhile, the authors of a SNP Plan B for independence – who had called for an electoral win to be used as a mandate to negotiate independence – were underwhelmed.

Angus MacNeil, who saw his proposals for an alternative route to independence defeated at this party’s conference in October, insisted a consultative independence referendum should be pursued “without delay”, despite the First Minister urging patience.

The SNP MP, who represents the Western Isles, took to social media to call the First Minister’s current policy “hard to fathom”.

He wrote on Twitter: “Never fathomed why the Scot Gov waited a year AND until after an General Election to move on a Section 30, persisting with Section 30 and the Boris veto is now hard to fathom. Surely consultative referendum route should be pursued without delay & if necessary cleared up in court one way or other.”

His Plan B colleague Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny welcomed a new Constitutional Convention, but was disappointed.

He said: “The news a new gathering of Scotland’s civic leaders is to happen is a welcome part of what must be a multi-faceted radical approach to ensure the democratic voice of Scotland is heard.

“We know Boris Johnson will keep saying no to a Section 30 request, and perhaps his obtuseness will only become more entrenched if the polls show he would likely lose a referendum. What’s stopping us asking the Lord Advocate right now if he thinks the Scottish Parliament has the legal competence to hold an advisory referendum on Scottish independence?

He added: “If he agrees then it will be up to the UK Government to take the Scottish Government to court in order to stop the people of Scotland having a choice on their own future. Let them.”