HUMZA Yousaf hailed the Yes movement’s “rededication to the cause of independence” as thousands turned out to the Edinburgh march and rally.

The First Minister told The National the number of people who attended the event, hosted by Believe in Scotland and Yes for EU, was “above” his expectations following his speech.

Yousaf told the audience that Scotland is suffering from a “cost of the Union” crisis and that independence is needed “more than ever”.

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He also reiterated that the key to independence is to secure “people power”, adding that the rally was a prime example of showing the “immense” strength of the movement.

The FM and organisers said that they believed 25,000 people had turned out to the event. 

Meanwhile, Minister for Independence Jamie Hepburn told the audience not to think of those who aren’t Yessers as No voters, but as those “still to be convinced”.

In his speech to a packed crowd outside of the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood Park, the FM said: “Friends, we stand here in front of our nation’s parliament, we stand here to rededicate ourselves to that cause of independence.

The National: Thousands of Yessers turned out to the eventThousands of Yessers turned out to the event (Image: Colin Mearns)

“And by God, the people of our country need it now, more than they’ve ever needed it before.

“We believe in independence, because this unequal union has caused so much suffering and so much harm.

“Let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, the people of this country are not suffering from a cost of living crisis, they’re suffering from a cost of the Union crisis.”

Yousaf added that it was not enough to point to Westminster’s failures, but that voters had to be motivated to take the leap to support Yes.

“We have to inspire people,” he said.

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“We have to give them a reason to vote for independence.

“So let’s go out there, let’s chap every door, and let’s inspire people. Let’s give them a vision.”

Following his speech, the FM told The National that it was crucial to get the message across that Westminster was the root cause of so many of the country’s current problems.

The National: He said: “All the suffering that people are having to endure at the moment, there’s the cost of living crisis, high energy bills, whether it's, of course, any aspect of the impact of austerity over the last 13 years, we need to remind people that independence is the answer.

“It’s the antidote to that. If we had powers in our own hands we wouldn’t have cruel Westminster policies hoisted upon us.

“So that’s the message that actually independence is linked to the cost of living crisis, or austerity, or of course the fact that our economy has suffered because of Brexit.”

Asked for his reaction to the turnout that saw thousands of Yessers descend on Edinburgh and march down the Royal Mile to outside of the Scottish Parliament on Saturday, the FM told The National: “I think it's great, it’s brilliant, it’s above my expectations certainly, on a beautiful day like today.

“I’ve been told it's the biggest rally of the year and I’m pleased to see so many tens of thousands of people out here.

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“It’s good to motivate, of course, sections of the wider Yes movement, but what we have to do is not just speak to ourselves, but it’s important that we reach out.”

Speaking to journalists, the FM was asked to respond to a heckler from the crowd near the end of the speech who asked how Scotland would get to independence.

Yousaf said that he set out his plan at the party’s independence convention in Dundee earlier this year, reiterating that Plan A continued to be to “demand a referendum”.

He said: “We know the UK Government and the Labour party have said they’re not going to give that so the only way to get that is to mobilise the power of the people, to get the conditions, the political conditions that they cannot ignore that anymore.

The National:

“That’s the route.

“Of course the next way to test that proposition on independence is going to be through the General Election.”

Yousaf added that the rally showed the “immense power of the people” that the Yes movement will need to mobilise to get Westminster to listen to demands for another referendum.

Earlier, the Minister for Independence told the crowd that Scotland would “not be feeling the pain” imposed by the numerous crises imposed by Westminster if it was independent.

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In a rallying cry to the audience, he said: "Let's take the energy that we feel from today, let's galvanise ourselves, let's get out there, let's take that message.

“Speak to your friends, your neighbours, your family.

“Speak to those yet to be convinced. Don't think of people as No voters, they are yet to be convinced.

“Make the case, persuade them, and together we can win.”