SNP and Labour leaders condemned a battle of egos as they tried to move on from the surprise launch of Alex Salmond’s new Alba party.
Nicola Sturgeon did not mention her former boss’s party by name but, in a campaign speech, she claimed: “In politics, things that once seemed desperately important feel so much less so now.
“I don’t have much time these days for the who’s up, who’s down approach to politics.
“And I definitely have much less patience for those who treat politics like a game – and for indulging anyone who puts self-interest ahead of the country’s best interests.
“If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that politics is about improving people’s lives or it is about nothing at all.”
Ms Sturgeon was speaking after a weekend dominated by the former SNP leader’s decision to stand for the new group on the North East regional list. It could propel him back into Holyrood after the May 6 election.
Ms Sturgeon has also lost awkward party colleagues including MP Kenny MacAskill to the single-issue pro-independence party.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar criticised Mr Salmond’s plans and said: “This is an attempt to settle scores, to seek revenge and about individual people’s egos.
“Our politics is much better than that – or at least has to be much better than that.
“I want no part of that kind of ego trip of one individual, because our recovery is more important than the psychodrama of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.
“I have no time for these egos and personalities and the settling of old arguments. We need a relentless focus on a national recovery instead.”
The two leaders attempted to move the campaign back on to domestic issues by making pledges to improve health care.
Mr Sarwar said Labour would also create three centres where GPs can refer patients with unclear symptoms for tests and scans within days.