THE SNP should focus on promoting a “path out of current dire straits” for Scotland as it bids to head off a threat from Labour in the run-up to the general election, a political expert has said.

A debate over the best way forward on election messaging has been triggered as parties start to ramp up attacks in anticipation of a UK vote.

First Minister Humza Yousaf last week branded Labour a “replica” of the Tories after leader Sir Keir Starmer gave a speech where he said he did not care if his party’s policies “sound conservative”.

However, SNP MP Stewart McDonald has urged his party to “resist easy soundbites” around comparing Labour to the Tories, saying it should let policies “speak for themselves”.

READ MORE: Tories 'set to ditch coalition of chaos with Labour' attack line

Kirsty Hughes, a writer and commentator on Scottish, EU and UK politics, said the SNP should try to convince voters by getting policies right, talking about independence and placing rejoining the EU at the heart of its campaign.

She said: “The two big things that differentiate the SNP from Labour and the Tories are independence and rejoining the European Union.

“So this needs to be at the heart of the SNP’s argument not tiptoed around because the time is never right or because some SNP voters might prefer to join Norway in the European Economic Area.

"And here Labour are offering policies very similar to the Tories – no referendum, and small amendments to the UK’s trade deal with the EU.

“Starmer is not offering any dynamic, engaging vision, so the challenge is for the SNP to do so and to call Labour out for being like the Tories when, as on the EU, they are – but not on everything.”

The National:

Hughes also called for the Scottish Government’s policy papers on independence to be published again – but said they must have “proper messaging, clear engaging, accurate policies, and stories and key points that all SNP politicians must promote”.

Speaking to The National’s Holyrood Weekly podcast, SNP depute leader Keith Brown said the independence will be “front and centre” of the SNP’s Westminster election campaign.

SNP policy convener Toni Giugliano said he believed the SNP had to fight the next election on independence – but warned “the clock is ticking”.

“We need to offer a clear and ambitious prospectus for change – and deliver that message through a consolidated Yes campaign,” he said.

“We should fight the election on three clear pillars; firstly, only independence can reverse the harms of Brexit. Secondly, Scottish democracy is under threat. And third, lock the Tories out for good.

“The reality is that Brexit and years of Tory austerity have widened inequalities and eroded public services in this country. We need to articulate the fork in the road – we either accept a future in Brexit Britain which is making us poorer, less competitive, less influential on the world stage – or grasp the opportunities of independence in Europe.”

Polling expert Mark Diffley said he expected to see the SNP attack the Labour from the left in the run-up to the General Election, in a bid to hold onto seats potentially under threat.

READ MORE: SNP say they'll force Labour to 'undo Brexit' after next election

“We will see focus on taxes and the economy and certainly they will attack Labour on its position on Brexit,” he said.

“It’s clear they are attempting to paint Labour as the same as the Tories and you can kind of see why they are doing that.

“But the risk of that clearly is that if the country as a whole just sees the next general election as an opportunity to get rid of the Conservative government, then that tactic is less likely to work.

“If it is a national mood, including in Scotland, that we just need to get rid of this very unpopular Conservative government, then that will play into Labour’s hands rather than the SNP’s hands.”