HUMZA Yousaf will today try to define a fresh vision for his government by using the powers of devolution "to their maximum” in the absence of an independence referendum.  

After a gruesome start to his premiership caused by fallout from his predecessor’s regime, he will set out his priorities in his first major statement to Holyrood as First Minister. 

He will also publish a policy prospectus listing outcome targets for the next three years on which he will be judged at the 2026 Scottish election.

The three key missions will be “equality, opportunity, and community”, and build on the SNP’s existing joint government deal with the Scottish Greens.

Opposition parties demanded the First Minister prioritise clearing the NHS backlogs that built up while he was Health Secretary and drop any demands for independence.

Anti-poverty groups also urged him to increase taxes on the well-off, although the next Holyrood budget is almost a year away.

Nicola Sturgeon last year failed in her Supreme Court bid to hold Indyref2 this autumn, and Rishi Sunak has already refused Mr Yousaf’s request for a fresh vote.

The SNP’s finance and governance crisis, plus declining poll ratings, mean Mr Yousaf has no realistic chance of extracting a vote from the Prime Minister through a surge in popular support. 

Instead, he will have to focus on public services if the SNP is to be re-elected in 2026. 

Mr Yousaf said: “These challenging times we live in call for us to share a fresh vision of how we face them.

"My cabinet has considered how we can build a better future for Scotland and the outcomes necessary to achieve that - through a determined focus on reducing poverty and strengthening public services, seizing the opportunity to build a growing and green wellbeing economy through the net zero transition and supporting business, and reaffirming our commitment to equality, inclusion, and human rights in everything we do.

“We will do so using the powers of devolution to their maximum, whilst making the case that as an independent nation, we can do so much more to make Scotland a wealthier, fairer, and greener country.” 

The Scottish Tories said Mr Yousaf must put NHS recovery at the top of his to-do list.

Deputy leader Meghan Gallacher also urged him to ditch the National Care Service, pause the Deposit Return Scheme and support Scotland’s farmers.

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She said: “Humza Yousaf has been quick to jettison his ‘continuity candidate’ tag as ever more shocking stories have emerged about how the SNP was run by Nicola Sturgeon and [husband] Peter Murrell.

“So I hope he uses his statement to turn his back on his predecessor’s policy failings too – including those for which he, as health secretary, is directly responsible.

“We need to see, finally, a workable recovery plan for Scotland’s health service that will address the enormous and unacceptable waiting times.

“The SNP has made Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK. The First Minister needs to rule out any further income tax rises and extend business rates relief to the same level that applies south of the border.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “There is a very real risk that internal turmoil will undermine the credibility of the current government.    

“For too long, the SNP have led this country down a dreary and divisive political path.

“It’s a path that left 1 in 7 Scots on a waiting list, households struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, and disruption to the livelihoods and healthcare needs of islanders. Sadly, the SNP are too distracted by their own internal wranglings to focus on the issues that matter.”

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Scotland in Union chief executive Pamela Nash added: “As a new First Minister, this is Humza Yousaf’s chance to place his sole focus on tackling the things that matter most to the people of Scotland.

“It is time for him to move on from the obsession with breaking up Britain.”

Running for SNP leader last month, Mr Yousaf said he would consider the creation of a new income tax bracket for those earning more than £43,662.

The IPPR think tank said it could raise up £257m a year, enough to increase the Scottish Child Payment for low income families from £25 to £40 per child per week.

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “The First Minister has been strident about his desire to tackle poverty and climate change but if he’s to achieve those ambitions then he must now back up his commitments and consider bold changes to tax.”