Former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has called on Nicola Sturgeon to focus on governing amid concern from parts of the pro-independence movement about the push for an early re-run of the 2014 referendum.
Mr MacAskill, who was replaced by Ms Sturgeon and stood down as MSP in 2016, said there should be “more governance” from Scottish ministers and warned that “warm words are inadequate”.
His comments follow an open letter published over the weekend by former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars claiming the independence movement is “not ready” for a second referendum in the next 18 months.
Speculation is growing that Ms Sturgeon will respond to the likely triggering of Brexit this week by demanding the power to call a new independence vote.
In an interview last week, the First Minister said it was “common sense” to hold a new poll in late 2018, before the UK leaves the EU.
However, her advisers have moved to dampen expectations that a referendum could be called for at the SNP conference in Aberdeen this weekend, with reports suggesting they believe such a move would appear too party political.
In an article for the Sunday Times, Mr MacAskill warned Ms Sturgeon not to take voters for granted and learn the lessons of Labour’s decline.
Mr MacAskill claimed the SNP had “underlying issues” and suggested too much power in was concentrated in the hands of Ms Sturgeon and her husband, SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.
He said in some areas there had been “lots of talk, but less action”.
“That’s proven inadequate for most mainstream European social democratic parties. The housing schemes cannot be taken for granted, as Labour found to its cost,” he wrote.
Mr MacAskill added: “The First Minister campaigns relentlessly but more governance by her ministers might be better... hard choices need to be made and vested interests challenged.”
Labour’s James Kelly claimed Mr MacAskill had “skewered” the SNP’s record in government, while Tory chief whip John Lamont claimed Ms Sturgeon had “completely shunned” education, health and justice “in her desperate pursuit of another independence referendum”.
An SNP spokeswoman said the SNP was providing “competent, focused progressive government” that delivered advances including free prescriptions and university tuition.