PRO-INDEPENDENCE parties should focus on building a “strong, lasting majority” for Yes as the leadership election proved talking about process will not convince No voters, Patrick Harvie has said.

The Scottish Greens co-leader told The National in an exclusive interview – ahead of the vote to nominate Humza Yousaf to become Scotland’s sixth first minister – that he thought the leadership contest was probably “more distressing” for SNP members than his party.

It had been suggested that if Kate Forbes had won the contest to become FM, the Greens would have been unable to work with her due to her opposition to gender reforms and her position on other equalities issues, which form part of the basis of the Bute House cooperation deal.

READ MORE: Kate Forbes rejects minister job in Humza Yousaf's government

But with Yousaf only one step away from the top Scottish Government job, as he’s due to be sworn in at the Court of Session on Wednesday, Harvie told The National that while he’s “convinced more than ever” that Scotland will become independent, the timing is much more uncertain in his view.

Harvie also said he believes Yousaf has a “difficult” task ahead of him to unite the SNP and wider Yes movement but did not believe that the divide over gender reforms and self-ID would be a fault line.

He also said that challenging the UK Government’s Section 35 order is crucial as the policy was in a “clearly devolved area” and welcomed Yousaf’s commitment to mounting a legal review.

Speaking to The National, Harvie was asked if he believed that the new era of the SNP and the Scottish Parliament would be the one to bring Scotland to independence.

“I genuinely think that there is a lot more uncertainty about the timing than there is about the duration of travel that we're going in,” he said.

The National: Humza Yousaf won the nomination to become Scotland's sixth FM on TuesdayHumza Yousaf won the nomination to become Scotland's sixth FM on Tuesday (Image: PA)

“I'm more convinced than I've ever been that Scotland is moving in the direction of travel toward being an independent country.

“I'm less certain than I've been for a while now about the timing, the speed of that journey.”

Some of the personal attacks and comments during the campaign, Harvie said in a nod to Forbes's evisceration of Yousaf’s record during the STV debate, were “needlessly hostile”, but he argued there were other lessons that could be learned from what has unfolded over the past month or so.

“If we can take a step back a bit from that, I think one of the things that came through clearer was that those who are focused on process and mechanisms and exactly what, what kind of theoretical steps there are, genuinely had less to say to the undecided,” Harvie said.

“And if we're going to continue that journey towards Scotland being independent, we need to continue to do more work to reach the undecided people or the people who maybe thought about voting yes, but you weren't quite convinced.

READ MORE: What it was like in Holyrood as Humza Yousaf won vote to become FM

“Maybe people who voted no, but also had some doubt in their mind about whether that was the right decision.

“Those are the people that we need to have a compelling case for. We need to build that argument in a way that people who are already convinced can be a bit bored by that suggestion that we need to keep making the argument and making it stronger because they're already there.”

Harvie argued that there are a “great many people” who are not “quite there yet” and that they are the voters critical to securing independence.

He said: “If we refocus on building that strong, lasting majority, not just kind of posting party popper emojis when a single poll creeps to 51 or 52%, but actually build us a clear, lasting stable majority.

“That's what gives us the clear path forward, not, you know, voter mechanisms, or de facto referendum processes …”

“Hopefully the [independence readiness] thermometer will be quickly forgotten as a concept …”

Ash Regan, the third contender in the contest, who returned 11% of first preference votes, had suggested during the campaign that there should be a physical element to show progress to independence placed in one of Scotland’s cities.

The suggestion was mocked viciously online, but Regan said Unionists who made fun of the plan could “crack on” during an interview on The National’s Holyrood Weekly podcast.

Regan and Forbes's opposition to challenging the UK Government’s use of Section 35 was a red line for the Scottish Greens, as Harvie said it was crucial to defend the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate in devolved areas.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon's letter to King called out by campaigners

The gender reforms, which Scottish Secretary Alister Jack blocked from being given Royal Assent by King Charles, is “clearly a devolved area”, Harvie said.

“There's no dubiety about that,” he added.

“It is being attacked by the UK Government, not because of any technical or legal reason, but because they politically oppose trans people's equality.

“They have turned 180 degrees since Penny Mordaunt was consulting on exactly the same legislation from the UK Government. They are now perpetrating a nasty right-wing culture war against trans people.

“I don't understand how anyone could say that we should simply roll over and accept that political attack against Scotland's democracy,” he added.

The National: Salmond said Yousaf should ditch the legal challenge against Section 35Salmond said Yousaf should ditch the legal challenge against Section 35

It comes as Alba party leader Alex Salmond told Times Radio on Tuesday morning that Yousaf should "absolutely" abandon the fight over Westminster's veto of the gender recognition reform bill, and "concentrate on self-determination not self-identification".

The National asked Harvie how Yousaf, and other politicians, would be able to bring the movement together when issues like gender reforms are causing deeper divisions.

“It will be difficult, of course, it's difficult for any political party leader, especially after there's been a close electoral contest within the party to bring people together,” Harvie added.

“But I don't think this particular issue makes it harder.

“I mean, Alex Salmond has already taken some of the worst people out of the SNP to join his ego trip party.

“So I don't see that as causing a problem. I see his intervention is actually making things slightly easier for the SNP.”