Humza Yousaf has distanced himself from Nicola Sturgeon's plan to use the next general election as a de facto referendum. 

Setting out his pitch in the SNP’s leadership contest, the Health Secretary said the party needed to instead push ahead with making independence the “settled will” of the people of Scotland.

The Glasgow Pollok MSP refused to put a number on what that might look like in the polls, just that it needed to be “sustainable.”

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In a speech to a crowd of supporters in Clydebank Town Hall, Mr Yousaf said: “For too long our opponents have been desperate to talk endlessly about process while at the same time actively refusing to grant a Section 30 order despite the SNP winning regular mandates for an independence referendum. 

The Herald:

“We need to stop falling into our opponents' traps. They want to define independence as a question about process. 

“We need to start talking about policy. We have to get back to the basics and remind people why they need independence. 

“It isn't good enough to have polls that put support for independence at 50 per cent or 51%.

“In order to gain our independence we have to grow that grassroots support from the bottom so that we can definitively say that independence has become the settled will of the Scottish people. 

“We do that not by engaging endlessly in process. We do that by engaging in policy, not being stuck, as I say, in that quagmire of process. 

“We need to get out there and we need to talk to people, remind them that it doesn't have to be this way. That with the full levers of independence, we can unleash our economic, our social and our green potential.”

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He welcomed the decision of the SNP’s ruling NEC to delay the party’s special democracy conference, saying that members should have an “open, engaging and honest debate with each other about the possible next steps whilst acknowledging that route we go down will undoubtedly have challenges.” 

“But let's remember that if we roll up our sleeves, quite literally, and get on with the work of persuading people of why independence is necessary, the how will become inevitable. 

“When independence becomes the settled will of the people of Scotland, it will become politically impossible to ignore for a UK Government of any colour.“

The Herald:

Answering questions from journalists, Mr Yousaf said he had harboured concerns about the de facto referendum plan.  

“I'm not as wedded to it as the First Minister,” he said. 

He said he would listen to what the membership had to say. 

“Be in no doubt the Westminster election for Scotland, it will be about that question of independence. So making sure that we get that section 30, in fact, getting Section 30 powers devolved to Scotland.”

Asked what he meant by sustained, he said: "I think anybody who knows the word sustained will understand what it means. I'm not going to put a per cent on it."

Mr Yousaf opened his speech by praising Ms Sturgeon as the “best politician on these islands” and describing her as "exceptional."

However, he said he would “have a different way of doing things.” 

“I've got a different approach in terms of leadership,” he said.

The minister also confirmed that he would push ahead with a legal to challenge the UK Government’s decision to block the Gender Recognition Reform Bill. 

“This is about an assault, an attack on our very democratic institutions and yes, I think we should absolutely be challenging that in court

“Somebody's really going to suggest to me that the first time a Section 35 order is going to be used by the UK government that we lay down and allow them to trample over the will of the Scottish Parliament on a bill that was not just supported by the majority, but had support from every single political party in that chamber?”

Mr Yousaf was also asked about Isla Bryson, who was kept in a women’s prison, despite being a double rapist.

“Look, I understand that these issues are sensitive, and they've got to be addressed sensitively, I support gender recognition reform,” he said. 

Mr Yousaf said Bryson was a “deceitful, deceptive individual.” 

“Frankly, they're simply pretending to be trans for the sake of making their life easier. So I don't recognise them at all as a trans woman.”

He added: “I do think though that, of course, the law is the law. And we have to accept that.

“People were able to self ID well before the GRR Bill has come forward. But let's not let Isla Bryson define the 99.9% of trans women out there who have never committed a crime, who aren't deceptive, who are not trying to manipulate a system in the way that Isla Bryson is.”