SCOTLAND’s deputy First Minister has rejected calls to field a single pro-independence candidate in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

Former first minister and Alba Party leader Alex Salmond said his former party was heading for “electoral disaster” if the pro-independence vote is split.

In an open letter to First Minister Humza Yousaf on Friday, Salmond said the party was in “danger of handing the seat to Labour on a platter”.

But speaking to journalists on Saturday in Hamilton while she campaigned with candidate Katy Loudon, Shona Robison rejected the calls.

“No, we are standing as the SNP in this constituency, in this by-election, to put forward the SNP’s proposition and policies like the Scottish Child Payment and to put a hard working MP into Westminster to stand up for her constituents and to support and push forward the very progressive policies that the SNP has,” she said.

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“Katy (Loudon) will do that in an excellent way, I have no doubt.”

Salmond said the by-election could see five pro-independence candidates on the ballot paper, including from the SNP, Greens and Alba – rather than one to take on Labour.

Salmond instead suggested Mr Yousaf should put forward a united approach at the SNP conference in October by making the case for one single independence candidate at each constituency at the next general election, expected to take place next year.

“The process of replacing Labour as the dominant party in Scottish politics started well before you even joined the SNP.

“It would seem more than a setback to the independence cause to let them regain a foothold by fielding multiple pro-independence candidates in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election.”

He called on the First Minister to respond by Friday August 25 in time for the Alba national council’s meeting the following day where the party will decide whether it will contest the seat.

A spokesman for the Alba Party said: “Shona Robison is absolutely entitled to share her views on what she thinks her party’s election strategy should be.

“However this is a political decision, not a Scottish Government decision. Shona has no role whatsoever in the leadership of the SNP. She is not a member of the party’s NEC and holds no office in the party and it’s therefore up to the leadership of the SNP to respond.

“Alex Salmond has made overtures to Humza Yousaf on numerous occasions and has now publicly written to him.

“It’s up to Humza to reply to Alex to make clear if he supports a single independence candidate through backing the principle of Scotland united to put country before party, or if he wishes to put party before country. We look forward to his response.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour launched a day of campaigning in Rutherglen and Hamilton West the party described as “super Saturday”, claiming the SNP only offered negativity in the by-election.

“Today Scottish Labour is taking its message of hope and a fresh start with our candidate Michael Shanks to hundreds of doors across the constituency,” said Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

“But while Scottish Labour focuses on hope for the future, the SNP campaign is going into overdrive trying to do the Tories’ work for them by attacking Labour.

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“The fact is that after 16 years in government and nearly a decade representing the majority of Scottish seats at Westminster, the SNP is out of touch and with no record to stand on.

“While the SNP stoke division and run a negative campaign, Scottish Labour is taking its message of change, a new deal for working people, action to tackle the cost of living crisis and saving our NHS to the people.”

During her party’s campaign stop, Ms Robison said Labour had become “arrogant” in the constituency.

“I think we are very clear that we are fighting for every vote, we’re working hard, knocking doors, not being complacent at all and that is the way we’re going to continue the campaign,” she said.

“Certainly not taking anything for granted unlike other parties seem to be doing.”