First Minister Humza Yousaf said the SNP has to “give people a reason” to vote for independence and pointing out UK Government failures was “not really enough” to shift numbers.
On Friday, Yousaf took part in a bumper round of broadcast interviews ahead of the SNP’s party conference in Aberdeen which gets under way on Sunday.
In an interview with the BBC’s Chris Mason, Yousaf said he wanted to “talk about why independence was relevant.”
Yousaf said: “We can point out Westminster’s failings because there are many failings.
“Scotland was dragged out of the EU against its will, a chaotic, Conservative government.
“But that’s not enough to really shift the numbers.
“The point is that you’ve also got to give people a reason to vote for independence.
“And the challenge with the SNP, I think, looking and reflecting truthfully, and where we’ve been where we are sometimes concentrating too much on process.
“I want to talk about why independence is relevant to people.”
The SNP leader also revealed he knew the party “were expected to lose” the key Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election last week.
He said there were “very difficult” contextual factors which led to the party’s defeat to Labour’s Michael Shanks.
Labour won the seat with 17,845 votes to the SNP’s 8,399 with a majority of 9,446 votes following the by-election.
Margaret Ferrier won the seat for the SNP in the 2019 general election, but had the party whip removed after she breached Covid rules the following year, travelling from London to Scotland by train after testing positive for the virus.
That behaviour resulted in her being suspended from the House of Commons, sparking the recall petition which led to the by-election.
Yousaf said the people of East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow will be “deeply let down” after MP Dr Lisa Cameron defected from the SNP to the Conservatives over allegations of bullying and toxic behaviour.
The First Minister said Dr Cameron should “do the honourable thing” and “stand down.”
That led to a question from Mr Mason, challenging Yousaf’s leadership capabilities.
Yousaf said: “Nobody wants to be on the other end of a by election defeat that goes without saying I’m not going to pretend otherwise.
“I think by anybody’s objective measure the last six months have been some of the most difficult six months the party has faced in its modern history.
“I accept fully my responsibility as leader of the SNP.
“But notwithstanding all those difficulties, and there have been many, the party in virtually every poll continues to lead, continues to be ahead.
Yousaf said the ongoing police investigation into the SNP’s finances was “damaging” and added: “I think that some of those images, particularly in the early days of that police investigation, are going to be difficult to for people to get out of their minds.”
The conference will debate the next steps toward independence.
He said “the nub of the issue” was that the party had to give people a reason to vote for independence.
“(They are) not going to be convinced by just pointing out the failings of Westminster, but giving people a reason to vote for independence.
“And that is what I’m absolutely committed to do.”
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