HUMZA Yousaf has pledged to grow the SNP’s Independence Unit on day one if he becomes the SNP’s next leader.

Speaking at an event in Arbroath on Friday, the leadership hopeful said he’d instruct the party’s HQ to grow the group – which was established by Keith Brown and led by SNP president Michael Russell.

The move would be part of a plan to “kickstart the independence campaign with urgency,” he told supporters.

The National: Michael Russell leads the party's Independence UnitMichael Russell leads the party's Independence Unit

It comes after the Health Secretary confirmed he would launch a series of regional assemblies across Scotland to proceed with establishing a path to independence if he replaces Nicola Sturgeon.

He is also looking into a pilot of paid organisers located around Scotland to boost the case for independence and show commitment to the movement.

Speaking at Webster’s Theatre on Friday, Yousaf said: “The question is how quickly can we deliver independence?

“Friends, unfortunately, we are not in a voluntary union of equals, we are denied the expression of our democratic voice by a Westminster government fearing the verdict of the Scottish people.

“If elected leader of the SNP, I will, in the first week begin the establishment of regional assemblies to empower our membership to determine our path to independence. The leadership will then act upon the collective mandate of our membership.”

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He went on: “However, be in no doubt, every single election we fight, including the next General Election must be fought on the issue of independence.

“We must demand our right to self-determination from whoever forms the next UK Government. Building our case for independence, demanding the power to hold our referendum on our terms and repealing Section 35 will be central to our next election campaign. Friends, we know our opponents want us stuck in quagmire of process, when we should be talking about policy.”

Yousaf confirmed: “If I am First Minister I will put government into fifth gear to complete that work, so we can arm our activists with the material they need, with the facts and figures required to persuade people to back our vision of a socially just independent nation.”

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He also praised the work of the Social Justice and Fairness Commission, and the Believe in Scotland campaign, for their campaigning efforts.

“Keith Brown, the party’s Depute Leader, has also established a new Independence Unit within SNP Headquarters – which I would I instruct HQ to grow on day one of my leadership.

“We need to harness all of this and more – to present a clear vision of what independence can do for Scotland.”

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He concluded the speech: “As I stand here in Arbroath today, here’s my declaration of independence:

If you trust me as our Leader and your First Minister, I will, with urgency, restart, reenergise and grow our Yes movement, I will work day and night to ensure we gain our independence. We owe nothing less to ourselves, to our children, and to those generations yet unborn.”

Meanwhile, fellow contender Regan’s independence plan would see her treat every election going forward as a chance for the people of Scotland to vote on self-determination – a plan she calls the “voter empowerment mechanism”.

Kate Forbes’s plan for independence involves the SNP winning a majority of seats at Westminster, in order to trigger a request for Section 30 order to allow Holyrood to hold a referendum within three months.