THERE was an almost deafening silence in the moments before Humza Yousaf was announced the winner of the SNP leadership contest, as the party and movement braced for the results.

It was followed by a partial sigh of relief - and a mood visible on the faces of MSPs and Yousaf supporters in the front rows of the press conference at the Thistle Suite in Murrayfield on Monday afternoon.

In the long hour before the results were announced, one SNP insider joked to another that they would form a break-away party if Forbes won. Anxiety was high, it was just too close to call.

Now the incoming first minister, all being well on Tuesday as long as MSPs vote to install him, not only has a big job on his hands getting on top of Scottish Government business, but in uniting a fractured Yes movement after weeks of a bruising campaign.

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The 52%-48% second preference votes between Yousaf and Forbes showed that it really was a fine line, and the vote could have gone in any direction.

But Yousaf vowed to bring the party together in his winner’s speech, saying he'd ditch “team Humza, team Kate, and team Ash” and get back to “team SNP”.

With the mudslinging allegedly over, Yousaf vowed to have his first meeting with Regan and Forbes in a bid for unity, with the trio having an informal chat before he left the building.

During the Q&A section of the press conference, The National asked Yousaf what his first act as FM would be to bring Scotland closer to independence.

He replied: “Of course during the campaign trail, one of the first things I want to do is to restart that civic campaign, it's got to be a grassroots campaign.

The National: Yousaf was announced as the winner at a press conference on MondayYousaf was announced as the winner at a press conference on Monday (Image: free)

“It can’t just be the leaders sitting in a room, devising strategies or the way forward, as important as the leadership is of those who belong in the independence movement, there’s got to be a civic-led, people-led movement that drives forward the campaign for independence.”

During a previous interview with the Sunday National, Yousaf said he would create a Cabinet Secretary position for advancing Independence, and was probed on who could take on the top job.

However, he would only say he would make appointments “in due course”, after multiple probing questions from the press pack.

“I think the message he gave just there about his first meeting, being with his two fellow candidates, was an important indication of the way that he wants to govern,” Forbes said in the minutes following the press conference, after being swarmed by reporters.

Speaking to The National, Forbes said she would “absolutely” get behind Yousaf as leader, adding: “We'll continue to work with him to ensure that we have a plan that has the confidence of SNP members, and a plan that inspires confidence amongst voters because there is no path to independence without persuading no voters.”

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Asked if she would urge her supporters to rally around the winner, she said: “Well I will be backing Humza Yousaf, I’m a democrat and members have made their views known, and I respect that.”

Regan, who was pictured looking particularly unhappy during the press conference, told The National afterward that she hoped Yousaf would take on board some of her suggestions to reignite the independence campaign.

“I think from listening to what Humza has been saying in his speech, I'm pretty sure that certainly some of my ideas will make it through into reality,” she said.

Asked if she believed Yousaf would be the SNP leader who would bring Scotland to independence, Regan said: “I'm not sure about that.

“We'll have to see what he sets out over the coming days.”

The National: The mood inside the press conference was tenseThe mood inside the press conference was tense (Image: PA)

Yousaf’s win came at the end of a defining era for the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon, and with Ian Blackford leading the SNP Westminster Group.

His successor Stephen Flynn, with Mhairi Black as his deputy, combined with Yousaf’s win, signal a new generation taking over the party.

Asked if he believed this wave of leaders could deliver independence for Scotland, Flynn said: “It is incumbent on us as the next generation … to take things forward, to convince the people of Scotland that we can govern well, which I believe we can, and to take us to that independent future.”

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And quizzed on if he thinks Yousaf would be able to bring a fractured party and wider movement together, Flynn added: “Humza set out his stall on the stage when he said there will be no team Kate, no team Ash, no team Humza, it will be team SNP.

“That’s what I wanted to hear, I’m sure that’s what the membership wanted to hear, and I think that’s expected of us.

“The public would expect nothing less than the party to come together to focus on good government because there are, of course, challenges at this moment in time, some real challenges, really difficult challenges, and Humza is the right person to bring us together and lead us forward together.”