HUMZA Yousaf has said he is “confident” that SNP members will back his motion on independence strategy ahead of the next General Election.

On Thursday, the details of the First Minister’s motion, backed by SNP Westminster Stephen Flynn were revealed, stating that negotiations for independence will take place if the party wins the most seats, rather than votes.

It also outlines a number of next steps, such as a draft legal text on the transfer of powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament and publication of a Withdrawal from Westminster document.

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It comes as some in the party, such as the party’s longest standing MP Pete Wishart, argued that the strategy should be focusing on the securing more than 50% of the vote. 

The motion is essentially what the First Minister set out in Dundee at the party’s independence convention earlier this year. He previously said he had wanted to wait for the party’s regional assemblies to finish before putting forward any motion.

Speaking to journalists at a visit to a nursery in Rutherglen, The National asked the FM why there had been no material changes to the plan, despite input from members across the country.

He said: “The regional assemblies that I went to and I spoke to every regional rep as well, it seemed to me that there was a lot of satisfaction about the route that I had proposed so that’s why I’ve included some of their feedback within the regional assemblies.

The National:

“But there are people who believe in, for example, the def acto route, Pete Wishart is probably one of them, so let's have that debate.

“I'm pretty confident in the argument that I’m proposing.”

“But in the best traditions in the SNP and I’ve been involved in many conferences where we’ve had a great debate, pretty robust, and we’ve come together to back whatever it is conference decides.

“I’m quite confident that conference will back my proposition but I look forward to a healthy debate.”

Asked if he was preparing for eventualities such as a low voter turnout at the General Election, Yousaf said: “Look I’m in control of what we can do in the SNP and what we can do in the SNP is make sure there’s a high voter turnout, of course the Conservatives have done their best to depress voter turnout with Voter ID but we’ll do our best to try and make sure there’s a good voter turnout.

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“I’m not complacent.

“This is going to be a tough General Election, we know Labour are biting at our heels.”

Yousaf pointed to the “encouraging” YouGov poll published on Thursday showing support drifting away from Labour and back to the SNP, but caveated it was “only one poll”.

“So we’re not complacent at all about the threat that other parties pose,” he added.

“That’s why we’ll be putting independence front and centre and my belief is it’s absolutely the alternative that people are crying out for.

The National: Pete Wishart

“Labour, Sir Keir Starmer, with his support for Bedroom Tax, rape clause, two-child limit, Brexit, he’s not the alternative, independence is the alternative.”

Earlier, Wishart (above), MP for Perth and North Perthshire, said it would not be “credible” or “realistic” for the SNP to “try and assert some sort of move towards independence if you're not carrying the majority of people with you".

Wishart has repeatedly called for the party to pursue the de facto referendum route.

Asked for his response to the MP’s comments, Yousaf said: “Two things, first of all, remember, our Plan A remains, of course, to test the proposition for popular support. Not me, not Pete Wishart, nobody in the SNP is rejecting that, nobody in the SNP is blocking that from happening. It's the Westminster parties.

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“So we have to accept that they're not going to allow us to test that proposition for popular support.

“I believe you have to use the next electoral means to do that, the next election will be a means to test that proposition.

“And the way we'll test it is by the rules of a General Election, he who wins the most seats wins that General Election, that has been the case since records began.

“What I would say to Pete and others, it’s definitely worth a debate on this question, hence why we will be having that debate in the best traditions of the SNP at the SNP conference next month.”

The National: Rachel Reeves

During a visit to Scotland on Friday, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves  (above) dismissed the FM’s proposals and said Labour wouldn’t consider it a mandate.

Asked by journalists what the SNP would do if Keir Starmer won’t negotiate independence if the party wins the most seats, the FM said: “That is a really a question for Sir Keir Starmer, that if we are given another mandate from the people of Scotland to put independence into democratic effect, so have a referendum, well, who's he to deny the people of Scotland?

“And my belief is that Westminster parties are denying us because they fear the verdict of the Scottish people.”