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Humza Yousaf: I am concerned at using general election as de facto IndyRef2

Humza Yousaf has expressed concern over using the general election as a de facto referendum on Scottish independence.

The Health Secretary officially launched his campaign to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and First Minister at Clydebank on Monday.

Following the Supreme Court ruling that Holyrood could not legislate on a referendum without Westminster’s consent, Ms Sturgeon outlined her intention to campaign for a pro-independence majority at the UK-wide election, due to be held next year.

But her resignation has thrown the plans into doubt as the party’s special conference due to be held next month was postponed.

Humza Yousaf launches First Minister campaign
Humza Yousaf, with his daughter Amal, at the launch of his campaign at Clydebank Town Hall (Andrew Milligan/PA)

And Mr Yousaf said he wanted to work with members of his party to determine the best approach to securing independence.

When asked about his thoughts on the plans, he told the PA news agency: “I’ve got some concerns. I’m not wedded to the idea of using a general election as a de facto referendum.

“But what I would say is that we have to stop talking about process, and start talking about policy, because if independence becomes the settled will of the Scottish people then those political obstacles will disappear.”

But Mr Yousaf said it was “fair” that SNP members would want to know his preferred method.

Humza Yousaf launches First Minister campaign
Placards on seats before Humza Yousaf arrives for the launch of his campaign at Clydebank Town Hall (Andrew Milligan/PA)

He added: “I’m looking to engage with them. I’m not going to tell them this is the method I want that you have to accept.

“Let’s have a proper discussion, let’s have a proper debate. Let’s bring the party membership together. Let’s do put all ideas on the table that are within a legal framework.”

Mr Yousaf also discussed his leadership opponents – currently Kate Forbes and Ash Regan – as he called for a “positive, engaging” campaign.

On whether he would offer his opponents a position in his cabinet if selected as First Minister, he said: “I have plenty of time for all of the great work that Kate Forbes has done.

“Anybody would be silly not to consider her a part of a future Government.”

But his opponents have previously expressed concern over the Scottish Government’s controversial Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, with Ms Regan pledging to scrap the legislation if selected as leader.

Me Yousaf said he could not pretend that the issue had not “caused some division” within his party – but promised to stand by the legislation and challenge the Section 35 order from the UK Government which seeks to block the legislation.

He said: “There’s the principle of the Section 35 order which I think we have to defend the Scottish Parliament against that.

“But I think on the issue more broadly, I’d be keen to work with those who have got real concerns. Let’s engage with them. Let’s try to bring them around the table. Let’s not let this issue define us as a movement.”