Former prime minister Gordon Brown has said the SNP should focus on recovery from the pandemic and the possibility of rising unemployment rather than the constitution.
Mr Brown praised Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who will this week focus on employment and jobs on the election trail, as the ex-premier urged political leaders to end “petty politicking”.
Economists have warned there could be a spike in unemployment once the furlough scheme ends in September, with employers still struggling under the weight of pandemic recovery.
Scottish independence has been a centrepiece of the SNP campaign so far, but Mr Brown urged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to turn her focus to the recovery and the economy.
Writing in the Daily Record, he said: “This is no time for our political leaders to hunker down. They must recognise they have no greater duty than setting out measures to tackle this. That means an end to petty politicking.
“Devolution has given Scotland the power to act. The Covid crisis has handed the Scottish Government extra resources to support our economy and high streets.
“Nicola Sturgeon must do what I think even she knows is right – to put her constitutional argument to one side and focus on the job in front of her.
“What we need is concrete and ambitious policy. That’s why I am glad this week Scottish Labour is to set out its ideas, in a new National Recovery Plan for jobs.
“Anas Sarwar has a strong sense of what needs to be done. He will set out plans to guarantee work for young people, to increase apprenticeships and to ensure those in work are able to upskill and change jobs to tackle the likely upheaval in the labour market.
“Devolution was designed to deliver Scottish solutions where there are Scottish problems but too often it has been reduced to a row between Nationalists and Unionists, which has taken us nowhere fast.”
Mr Brown was prime minister during the financial crash of 2008, which he compared to the economic toll of the pandemic, saying: “More than 10 years ago, as the financial crisis ripped apart economies across the world, we faced the same challenge – and a similar choice.
“We could batten down the hatches and accept a new Great Depression or act with speed.
“As Scotland emerges from the pandemic, the situation is as serious as it was then – and without action the consequences will be just as dire.”
SNP depute leader Keith Brown said Mr Brown is “the very last person anyone in Scotland should be listening to”.
He added: “He told people to vote No in 2014, and that has ensured continued Tory austerity, Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, and Brexit imposed on Scotland against our will – a Brexit which Gordon Brown’s Labour party now supports.
“Having the powers of independence is essential to ensuring the sustainable, fair recovery we need to see, and we will offer people that choice in a post-pandemic referendum.
“Voting Labour at this election risks handing Scotland’s future to Boris Johnson. Giving both votes to the SNP will put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.”