AN SNP minister has accused his MP colleagues of “talking an absolute load of baloney” over the Nicola Sturgeon’s future as SNP leader.

Humza Yousaf’s criticism followed an article on the BBC Scotland website asking if the First Minister’s position as party chief was secure.

The fractures in the party are partly around Sturgeon’s hold-steady position on indyref2.

Some of her MSPs and MP are demanding something sooner rather than later.

Pete Wishart and Joanna Cherry have clashed very publicly over the prospect of legislating for a new referendum without Westminster’s approval.

The National: Joanna Cherry

The SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Angus MacNeil, told the BBC: “If it was me, I’d have a different strategy; I would have Nicola Sturgeon’s strategy and I’d also have another strategy in parallel so that when something was to hit the brick wall, there was something else to go with it.”

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He added: “The SNP conference last autumn didn’t even want to discuss a plan B and went with plan A. It would seem that plan A has hit the brick wall.”

There are other, well-documented tensions over the party’s domestic agenda, particularly around planned reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.

Unnamed sources told the BBC reporter that they thought Sturgeon might have to "fall on her sword” over the summer.

That, the article suggests, could be because of the trial of Alex Salmond.

The former First Minister – who denies all charges – is in court next month charged with two indecent assaults, 10 sexual assaults, an attempted rape and a sexual assault with intent to rape, attempted rape and sexual assault charges.

Legal restriction means that very little of the detail can be reported but the four-week trial, which starts on March 9, is going to be a stressful event for the SNP.

A Holyrood inquiry is also poised to investigate Sturgeon’s role in a separate, bungled Scottish Government probe into her predecessor which cost taxpayers £500,000.

Asked if their leader might have to go sooner rather than later, MacNeil said: “I suppose that’s maybe a matter for events and Nicola Sturgeon – who knows?

“What I’m concentrating on is not so much the personalities involved but it’s the issue of independence.”

Kenny MacAskill, who was justice secretary in Scotland under Salmond and was elected to Westminster in December’s election praised Sturgeon, saying: “There is no vacancy.”

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He added: “You never say never in politics – but at the present moment there is no challenge in the SNP, nobody seeks it, we’re comfortable with Nicola’s leadership.

“We’ll see what happens but she still has a lot of fuel in the tank.”

Responding to the BBC article on Twitter this morning, Yousaf wrote: “An absolute load of baloney. Independence at 50% – in some polls even higher – we have just won another election & support for the SNP miles ahead of opposition.”

The Justice Minister added: “The couple of MPs stirring the pot & trying to disrupt are doing themselves & the Independence cause no good whatsoever.”

The National: Former SNP depute leader candidate Julie Hepburn has said the indyref2 campaign must be tailored to different communities

Julie Hepburn, who stood to be the SNP’s depute leader, and is well known among party members warned plotters that it would “be an astonishing act of self-sabotage” to try and undermine Sturgeon, when she “is arguably one of the best political leaders these islands have ever seen – respected at home and internationally – and our best chance of securing independence.”.

Glasgow South SNP MP Stewart McDonald accused his colleagues of sexism saying that if a man had achieved the same electoral success as Sturgeon had “they’d be singing his name.”