Former culture minister Sam Galbraith has condemned the treatment of Scottish
Opera by his Labour colleagues as "an attack on excellence".
Scottish Opera has suffered funding problems for years
He claimed the Scottish Executive's handling of the company - which has announced major cutbacks - had again left arts and culture "second best".
Nearly half the staff of Scottish Opera are to lose their jobs.
It is part of a radical overhaul announced by Mr Galbraith's successor, Frank McAveety.
There will be a nine-month period with no main scale productions before the new-look Scottish Opera resumes operations in spring 2006.
Writing in a Sunday newspaper, Mr Galbraith also said the arts and culture post was a portfolio which was always given to the "most compliant minister".
He claimed in an article in Scotland on Sunday that the company's problems have been caused by consistent under-funding.
During his tenure as culture minister between 1999 and 2001 under the late
Donald Dewar, he approved a financial rescue package for Scottish Opera.
Mr Galbraith wrote: "The attack on Scottish Opera is an attack on excellence.
"I am fed up with Scotland going for second best."
He added: "The arts portfolio is an afterthought given to the most compliant minister who is not expected to do very much and at best keep the complaints down to a minimum."
The Scottish Tories said Mr Galbraith's words showed the executive should have heeded
the advice of the ex-head of English National Opera, who warned Scottish Opera would not be able to function as a national arts body without extra funding.
Conservative spokesman, Jamie McGrigor, said: "I agree with Sam
Galbraith, what the executive has done to Scottish Opera is a disgraceful attack on excellence.
"It seems that nobody at the executive is taking charge or responsibility or
has any ideas whatsoever in terms of arts policy."
However, an executive spokesman said: "Previous attempts to deal with Scottish Opera's funding problems have been short-term fixes.
"The executive's funding for the arts is at an all-time high."