ALEX Salmond has claimed he has a plan to save the SNP and deliver Scottish independence in five years.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, the Alba party leader said he had made an offer to First Minister Humza Yousaf to help the party avoid electoral defeat in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election and at the next General Election.

Salmond told the newspaper that he had written to the SNP, and told them if they change the direction of the party, commit to a full-blown campaign for independence and drop its coalition with the Scottish Greens, he would consider standing down his Alba candidates in marginal seats.

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The former first minister argued that this would allow independence to be won within five years.

“We’ve written to them” Salmond said.

“If the SNP put forward a unity candidate, we believe the other independence parties should withdraw in their favour, as long as that is carried forward to the General Election.

“That unity candidate would be the SNP candidate, because it’s an SNP-held seat.”

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Salmond also said Yousaf (pictured above) needs to develop better leadership qualities, adding: “Instead of beetling round Scotland as the first activist, he would probably have an extra half hour in the bath in the morning to think about things.

“It doesn’t matter how bright you think you are, a moment of reflection is always worthwhile.”

It comes after a war of words between Salmond and his successor Nicola Sturgeon escalated at the Fringe after both were asked about reconciliation.

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However, Alba have not been doing well in the latest polling, and it is unlikely that the SNP will engage in the party’s Scotland United pact, the party having repeatedly ruled it out in the past.

Polling from Electoral Calculus and Find Out Now from earlier this month reported the two current Alba MPs, Neale Hanvey, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, and Kenny MacAskill,  East Lothian, would lose their seats at the next Westminster election to Labour.

And, the First Minister told the audience at Iain Dale’s All Talk Edinburgh Fringe show last week that if Alba wanted to unite the Yes movement they should “stop attacking the SNP” and work to counter disinformation about independence instead.

During the interview, Yousaf was asked if getting Alba members to rejoin the SNP would be the “biggest symbol of reuniting the Yes movement”.

The National:

“Anybody from Alba wants to join the SNP, I’m sure we’ll consider their application in due course,” the FM said.

“What I would say to Alex [Salmond] and I’ve not had a chance to speak to him about this, but if Alba wanted to unite the Yes movement and they want to show they’re really serious about that, all I would say to them is this, 90% of your press releases seem to be attacking the SNP and we’re the largest vehicle, we are the vehicle that will deliver independence.”

The FM added that he would say to Salmond in particular “don’t spend most of your time attacking us, we’re on the same side here”.

In response to the comments, SNP MP Pete Wishart tweeted: "'He' is literally on 2%. The only thing that he might 'rescue' is one of his deposits..."

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It comes as the attacks on the Bute House agreement with the Scottish Greens have intensified in recent days.

Backbench SNP MSP Fergus Ewing launched a ferocious attack on the co-operation deal in The Herald on Sunday, demanding a vote on the agreement at the party’s conference in October.

SNP policy convener Toni Giugliano called for those who have expressed opposition to the agreement to show “transparency”.