Alex Salmond has said Margaret Ferrier was “thrown to the media wolves” by a disloyal SNP, though Humza Yousaf has dismissed his views as being in a “minority”.
The Alba Party leader said that despite Ms Ferrier’s “serious mistake” in breaking coronavirus rules, there should not be a by-election in her constituency.
There is currently a recall petition ongoing in her Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat after the MP was suspended from the House of Commons for more than 30 days.
If 10% of the electorate choose to sign the petition – some 8,113 people out of 81,124 – a by-election will be triggered.
Originally elected as an SNP MP, Ms Ferrier now sits as an independent after having the whip removed when her rule-breaking came to light.
The First Minister was campaigning in the constituency on Saturday, saying support for the SNP there is “solid”.
Mr Salmond, whose party has two MPs in Westminster, said Ms Ferrier’s censure was excessive.
The Alba Party leader said: “The reality is that Margaret Ferrier was thrown to the media wolves by a then first minister anxious to divert press attention from the other public health failings of her administration and sentence pronounced by those with a vested interest in a by-election.
“The current First Minister has carried on this disgraceful lack of compassion to a woman who has devoted her life to furthering the cause of Scottish independence.
“If SNP members need to understand what has gone wrong with their party they need look no further than this totally depressing display of disloyalty.”
Mr Salmond said Labour were “like political vultures” and called for pro-independence parties to put forward a single candidate under a “Scotland United” banner if there is a by-election.
However the SNP leader said it is right that the recall petition goes ahead.
Asked about Mr Salmond’s comments, Mr Yousaf said: “It’s not just an error of judgment of course, Margaret Ferrier was guilty of a number of charges as well. That’s pretty serious.
“Therefore, a cross-party group in Westminster – not one led by the SNP – decided those significant sanctions on Margaret Ferrier and that’s why we have this recall petition.
“Process has been followed all the way through.
“I think Alex Salmond, perhaps not for the first time in this regard, is in a minority in terms of how Margaret Ferrier has been treated.
“It will now be up to the people of Rutherlgen and Hamilton West to have their say on whether there should be a by-election.”
Asked about his party’s chances, Mr Yousaf told the PA news agency: “Don’t get me wrong, the circumstances are difficult, they are challenging, there’s no getting away from that.
“But for the many weeks that I’ve been here campaigning, it’s very clear that there’s solid support for the SNP.”