The SNP‘s focus on Scottish independence under its new leader is set to switch to a longer-term policy of converting voters, rather than agitating for a second referendum.

The approach taken by Humza Yousaf will aim to push popular support for leaving the UK to a level where it is consistently higher than 50 per cent.

Privately, even ardent pro-Union politicians concede that consistent opinion polling showing a clear majority for independence would make demands for indyref2 unstoppable.

However, this approach is likely to take a significant length of time, with the new SNP leader being warned on Monday that he risked kicking Scotland’s constitutional future “into the long grass”.

Mr Yousaf, who started his political career as a party activist, said the pro-independence side would “only win” if it took its fight out of Holyrood and Westminster and onto the doorsteps.

However, he declined to put a timetable on his plan to secure indyref2 and refused to say whether the strategy would result in Scotland leaving the UK within five years.

“My solemn commitment to you is that I will kick-start our grassroots, civic-led movement and ensure our drive for independence is in fifth gear,” he told supporters.

“The people of Scotland need independence now more than ever before, and we will be the generation that delivers it.”

During the leadership campaign, Mr Yousaf quickly distanced himself from Nicola Sturgeon’s plan to use the next general election as a “de facto” independence referendum.

He said he had “concerns” about whether the policy, which contributed to the former First Minister standing down after more than eight years, would actually delivers its aims.

Ms Sturgeon’s predecessor Alex Salmond warned Mr Yousaf against moving too slowly, saying “the constitutional issue cannot be kicked into the long grass yet again”.

“The people of Scotland have voted in election after election not for who the First Minister should be, but for Scotland to have a choice on its future,” he added.

Calling for Mr Yousaf to “reunite the movement” for independence, he said: “Continuity won’t cut it. It’s time to hold Westminster’s feet to the fire.”

Downing Street said it would reject any formal request for indyref2 should Mr Yousaf ask for one by seeking a Section 30 order.

“I think you know our well-established position on this,” Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said. “We believe it’s the wishes of the people of Scotland, the whole of the UK, to focus on the issues that matter most to them: reducing inflation, dealing with the cost of living, tackling backlogs. Those are the issues that the public care about and that’s what the Government will be focused on.”

He added that he was “not aware” of any new request for a Section 30 order from Mr Yousaf.

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