ALBA Party leader Alex Salmond hailed Fergus Ewing’s committment to the independence cause as he criticised Scottish Greens co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie.

It comes amid reports that the SNP MSP faces severe disciplinary action over his rebellions against the Scottish Government and criticism of his party’s Bute House Agreement partners.

His position in the party will be discussed at a meeting of the SNP’s Holyrood group.

Former first minister Salmond has now come out in defence of Ewing.

Salmond said: “Humza Yousaf is in severe danger of fatally undermining his own short leadership of the SNP. He has already expelled a fine independence supporter in Angus MacNeil MP and now he appears to be lining up Fergus Ewing for the chop.

“In a full 20 years as SNP leader, I expelled but one parliamentarian and he was convicted of criminal assault. I never would have dreamt of getting rid of people just because they disagreed with me on politics or tactics or dissented from some votes in Parliament.

“In the case of Fergus Ewing, he is under the cosh just because he is articulating what everybody else knows – that the Green Party are a crushing liability to the independence cause.

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“For Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, independence is at best a flag of convenience to allow them to creep into government and pursue their divisive hobby horses. In contrast for Fergus Ewing it has been a lifetime pursuit as it has for Angus MacNeil. Fergus Ewing is 10 times the Scottish nationalist than Patrick Harvie will ever be.

“What Humza needs to understand is that expelling people is a sign of critical weakness, not strength, while to expel strong independence supporters at the behest of fair-weather friends in simply ridiculous.

“If Humza carries on in current form he will be remembered as the briefest SNP leader in history.”

Meanwhile, Alba’s chair Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh hit back at minister Neil Gray after his comments on The National’s Holyrood Weekly podcast.

Gray had responded to criticism from the Alba Party that SNP are scared of talking about independence.

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The Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy Secretary said: “Independence is absolutely central to this government’s programme.

“The work that Jamie Hepburn is doing, that Angus Robertson is doing, that’s been led by the First Minister, in building our new prospectus series, our Building a New Scotland series, I can see there is a hugely ambitious programme of work there to ensure that we are taking the case for why we need to be independent to the people.”

Following his remarks, Ahmed-Sheikh praised Gray as a “highly competent Cabinet Secretary”, but added that “the gentleman doth protest too much”.

She said: “It is palpable nonsense that the SNP/Green coalition government are prioritising independence.

“Instead, they have produced a devolved Programme for Government which simultaneously lacks independence ambition but will also prove unaffordable within the new Westminster settlement.

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“If the administration wish the people to understand how London is financially squeezing the Scottish Parliament, then they have to publish their independence ambitions for a real attack on poverty and a real drive for economic growth. That can then be contrasted with what is realistic in a government programme under the ever-tightening straitjacket of devolution.

“That is the groundwork for a sustained attack on London for holding Scottish people back not just on the constitution but on the pursuit of prosperity and equality for Scots.

“Instead, the SNP and Greens have made a range of publicity claims for what will be achieved under the legislative programme which are at best questionable given the latest Westminster raid on the Scottish finances.

The National:

“Indeed, given the extravagant and undeliverable language of some of the publicity surrounding the government programme, it is somewhat surprising that they have managed to keep the higher echelons of the civil service on board. However, when they inevitably fail to deliver then the blame will be placed squarely on Edinburgh not London.

“They are thus letting Westminster off the hook and setting themselves up to take the political fall.

“Neil was a first-class colleague and is proving himself a highly competent Cabinet Secretary, but he needs to understand that after nine fruitless years the people are desperate for independence progress.

“The coalition Scottish Government are guilty of both bad politics and bad faith.

“Bad faith in promising what cannot be delivered and bad politics in downgrading independence.

“Neil Gray attempting to counter the argument that independence is not the focus of the government is a case of the gentleman doth protest too much!”