INDEPENDENCE is not about “ripping up the cultural and social union” between Scotland and the rest of the UK, Humza Yousaf has said, as he argued that even people who call themselves British should support it.

The First Minister’s comments came as he appeared in London to give a speech on the economy.

During a visit to the London School of Economics (LSE), Yousaf argued that Brexit had directly cost Scotland £1.6 billion in tax receipts in 2023 alone – and claimed a “cozy Westminster consensus” between the Tories and Labour saw no interest in improving people’s lives on the ground.

After his speech, the First Minister fielded questions from students in the audience.

One, who introduced himself as Max, asked if there were comparisons to be made between the campaign for independence and the push for Brexit.

The student asked: “Is this idea not just playing on hopes, emotions and skewed facts, as the original Brexiteers did?”

Responding, Yousaf said that campaigners for independence had a duty to “approach the debate with honesty”.

He went on: “So what you won't hear from me is, ‘by the way, we will be independent tomorrow, and there'll be a river of milk and honey, and by the way, we'll put £350 million on the side of a bus, and we'll tell you you'll get that back every single week’.

“What we will do is try to be – well not try to be, we will be – evidence-based and facts-based, and equally be upfront about where the challenges are.”

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The First Minister said that rejoining the EU while the UK remains outside of it could raise issues with border checks, and also said an independent Scotland would have a deficit it would need to tackle.

But he insisted that the opportunities from independence would be greater than the challenges, pointing especially to energy potential and the chance to make decisions closer to the people they impact.

On the issue of emotional arguments, he went on: “You know that important connection that people have, who feel British, for example, who live in Scotland. We shouldn't ever downplay that.

“You can absolutely feel British and still vote for independence, because what we're not telling you to do is rip up that cultural and social union.

“What we're saying is, is it not better that we make decisions for ourselves, that meet the needs and interests of the country – and make those decisions in Scotland, as opposed to a country so many hundreds of miles away where Scotland so often feels like a bit of an afterthought.”

The National: First Minister Humza Yousaf at the London School of Economics for a speech on Tuesday

Elsewhere at the LSE event, Yousaf said that the two main Westminster parties had lost sight of “that basic goal that should be at the heart of every political leader’s priorities, that basic goal of improving people’s lives”.

He went on: “Instead, we have a Conservative Government – a Tory party – that shamefully seems intent on fighting the next UK election as a divisive culture war – a complete and utter scorched earth policy from a party that knows it’s on its way out of power.

“Labour, meanwhile, is purposely dialling down expectation on what can be achieved.

“Their offer amounts to no more than managing decline but just doing that in a more competent way than the Conservatives.”