Now that Humza Yousaf has been confirmed as the new SNP leader, attention will turn to his plans to secure Scottish independence, the party’s defining policy.

The prospect of indyref2 seems about as distant now as it did between late September 2014 and summer 2016, until the result of the Brexit referendum thrust it back onto the agenda.

Mr Yousaf is now planning to use the energy generated by his election as SNP leader to kickstart a grassroots Yes campaign with the aim of persuading No voters to switch sides.

He also intends to push for another constitutional clash with the UK Government through mounting a legal challege to Westminster’s controversial decision to veto Scotland’s gender recognition reforms.

Nicola Sturgeon seized this opportunity to advance the cause of independence and ratchet up the pressure on the UK Government, something her successor will want to emulate.

However, despite her undoubted political skill, Ms Sturgeon was never able to secure the second independence referendum she desired and ultimately ran out of road.

In an uncharacteristic gamble last year, she pushed for a Supreme Court ruling on whether Holyrood could hold its own indyref2, but the judgment went against her.

Her plan B option of using the 2024 general election as a “de facto” independence vote proved controversial within her own party and was one of the reasons she chose to step down.

Public support for Scottish independence has also not advanced much since 2014’s referendum, when 45 per cent of the country voted to leave the UK.

The immediate and pressing challenge for Mr Yousaf will be to unite the SNP behind his own strategy for securing independence, which to be successful will have to convert a significant number of Scots to the cause.

Even the most ardent pro-Union politicians privately agree that if support for independence surges to well over 50 per cent for a sustained period, resisting calls for another vote on the issue would be unsustainable.

One advantage that Mr Yousaf has is simply that he is not Nicola Sturgeon: some Scots who disliked the previous First Minister’s approach to domestic matters or other issues could yet be won over by a new leader.

But he will also have to work hard to build trust with Scottish voters, as frankly most have lost sight of who the SNP are and what they stand for. On as issue as critical to the economy and the nation’s future prosperity as independence, trust and a perception of competence are crucial.

After all, getting to the point of a referendum date being announced is only the first part of the battle – they will then have to outline a compelling case for leaving the UK and win over the sceptics during a campaign when every angle will be probed.

By admin