Humza Yousaf trashes Nicola Sturgeon's legacy with major policy U-turn at SNP conference

Nicola Sturgeon/Humza Yousaf

Humza Yousaf has trashed Nicola Sturgeon's legacy after announcing a major policy U-turn at the SNP party conference

Millie Cooke

By Millie Cooke

Published: 16/10/2023

- 09:38

Updated: 16/10/2023

- 09:40

Sturgeon previously took the approach of using a general election as a mandate for independence - but Yousaf rowed back on this at the party's conference

Humza Yousaf has trashed Nicola Sturgeon's legacy after announcing a major policy U-turn at the SNP party conference.

The party leader announced that he would not be following Sturgeon's approach of using the General Election as a 'de facto referendum'.

Sturgeon took the approach of using elections as a mandate for independence.

She previously said if the party wins a majority at a general election, it would proceed with a referendum, regardless of Westminster's position on the issue.

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But the new approach taken by Yousaf means that a majority at the next election would be cause for the party to begin negotiations with Westminster on independence - rather than immediately launching into a referendum.

Taking a swipe at Sturgeon's plan, Yousaf told the party conference it is the "wrong approach".

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard, who proposed one of the amendments to Sturgeon's strategy, told the SNP's conference that 10 per cent of those who support independence do not back the SNP for the next election - but also do not back other pro-independence parties.

He said: "The truth of this is that there is 10 per cent or more of the Scottish electorate who want Scotland to be an independent country, but it is not the main thing on their mind right now."

Fellow SNP MP Joanna Cherry agreed with the decision not to use 2024 as a de facto referendum - but she said the option should be kept open for future elections.

But MP Pete Wishart opposed the plan, saying it it time for the party to "stop asking and time to start asserting".

He said the SNP needs to present a "credible and realistic route" to independence to be presented to the country in order to leave the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Alex Salmond, Sturgeon's predecessor, warned that Yousaf's decision was set to "bring about the greatest setback to the independence movement in living memory".

He said watching Yousaf's leadership is like "witnessing a car crash in slow motion".


The independence movement has faced several setbacks in recent years, with the Supreme Court last year ruling that the Scottish Government does not have the relevant legal powers to hold a second referendum on independence without Westminster approval.

But at the time, Sturgeon vowed to press on with her independence mission.

Giving a press conference in the wake of the ruling, she said: "As long as there is breath in my body, I refuse to give up on the basic principle of democracy."

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