The next general election will be “difficult” for the SNP, the First Minister has admitted.
Humza Yousaf said the case for independence would be put to the people of Scotland at the top of the party’s manifesto and said he remained confident of victory.
The SNP leader spoke on the BBC’s Sunday Show after leading a special conference on Saturday determining the party’s strategy to gain Scottish independence.
He said: “This is going to be a tough general election. It’s going to be a difficult general election.
“That’s why I’m going to put the case for independence as that alternative future, that better future, to the people of Scotland and I’m confident we can win that general election.”
He insisted the SNP winning a majority of seats at the next election would mean Holyrood begins negotiations with Westminster.
However, his comments were made as recent polling by PanelBase predicted the SNP will take 21 of the available 59 Scottish seats at the next election – down from their current 45.
Scottish Labour are predicted to win 26 seats.
Discussing the route to independence, Yousaf said he believed a referendum was the best way forward however, as this has been blocked by Westminster, a general election would be the next way to test the consensus of the public.
He said: “The party that wins the most seats, of course, wins the general election.
“I’m not saying to you if we win that general election Scotland suddenly becomes independent.
“What I’m saying to you is that through a democratic, lawful means, we begin negotiation with the UK Government on how to give that proposition democratic effect.”
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, said: “Humza Yousaf has made it clear – if your priority isn’t a divisive and disruptive referendum, the SNP doesn’t want your vote.”
“This is a single-issue party without a coherent plan on how to deliver on their one policy of independence,” she said.
“The SNP has turned its back on anyone more concerned with ending the cost of living crisis, reviving our economy and rebuilding our public services.”
Meghan Gallacher, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said Yousaf’s “latest plan to push his independence obsession confirms that he has taken Nicola Sturgeon’s strategy and put it on steroids”.
“At a time when people across Scotland are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and want the SNP-Green government to focus on their real priorities, Humza Yousaf is typically obsessed with holding another divisive referendum as soon as possible,” the MSP said.
“It is clear that the self-styled first activist is talking about his favourite subject to deflect from the chaos engulfing his party and their overwhelming failures during their 16 years in office.
“Whether it was on the health service, their ferry fiasco, the lack of dualling the A9 or the spiralling costs for a replacement Barlinnie, Humza Yousaf had no answers.”