Yousaf vows to fight to repeal Section 35 if he becomes SNP leader

A Section 35 order was used to block Scotland's gender reform legislation earlier this year.

Humza Yousaf has vowed to fight to repeal the piece of legislation that was used to block Scotland’s gender reforms if he becomes first minister.

The SNP leadership contender told supporters at Webster’s Theatre in Arbroath that he would seek to remove Section 35 of the Scotland Act if he becomes Nicola Sturgeon’s successor.

The law gives UK ministers the ability to block any bill deemed to have an adverse impact on legislation reserved to Westminster.

Changing the law would require a majority vote in the House of Commons.

Scottish secretary Alister Jack became the first person to issue the order in January when he prevented Scotland’s gender reform bill from receiving royal assent.

Reports recently suggested the UK Government could also block Scotland’s deposit return scheme by refusing an exemption from the UK Internal Markets Act, a law that deals with post-Brexit trade within the UK.

The health secretary warned his supporters that the UK Government would continue to use the act to stop Scottish legislation.

Yousaf said he would oppose “any power grab by Westminster on any issue” even if it was one he “fundamentally disagreed with”.

He said: “Anyone running for first minister must be able to say that they will defend the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament at all times. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.

“If we do not, if we cave in the first time they use a Section 35 order, they will veto legislation after legislation time and time again.”

The SNP leadership hopeful promised to fight every election on the issue of independence, including the next UK General Election.

He continued: “We must demand our right to self-determination from whoever forms the next UK Government.

“Building our case for independence, demanding the power to hold our referendum on our terms and repealing Section 35 will be central to our next election campaign.”

Among Yousaf’s pledges to supporters was the formation of “regional assemblies” that would see SNP members determine a path to independence.

But the health secretary warned Scottish independence would require sustained levels of support for a Yes vote.

He said: “If elected leader of the SNP, I will, in the first week begin the establishment of Regional Assemblies to empower our membership to determine our path to independence.

“The leadership will then act upon the collective mandate of our membership.”

He continued: “Scotland will be independent when we secure a sustained majority for independence.

“When that happens it will be politically impossible to ignore independence, at that point the democratic will of the people of Scotland will not be denied.”

Fellow leadership contender Ash Regan has said she believes Scotland would be allowed independence without a referendum if enough voters supported pro-independence parties in an election.

Meanwhile, Kate Forbes, who is also in the running, told an SNP leadership hustings earlier this week that if she becomes first minister she would campaign for a referendum within three months of the next election if the SNP received more than 50% of the vote.

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