HUMZA Yousaf has pledged ministers will set out the economic case for Scottish independence over the coming months with the message “It does not have to be like this”.

Addressing the annual dinner held by pro-independence ­organisation Business for Scotland, the First ­Minister said that after more than a decade of Tory austerity, people have begun to think it is the norm.

He said business and the idea of a wellbeing economy would be placed at the “heart, front and centre” of the case for independence.

The SNP leader told the ­audience gathered in Glasgow on Friday night: “What I’ll be doing – what the ­Scottish Government will be doing – is over the coming months, ­ministers in the Scottish Government will be setting out the economic plan for an independent Scotland through a ­series of set-piece events.

“We are going to have speeches, we are going to have strategies, papers – but more importantly, we are going to be arming each and every single one of you.

“Because there is only so much the Government can do, we need our ­people on the ground, talking to every single person in Scotland, armed with the information, the facts, the data of how independence can unleash our economic potential.

“And that is the message – saying to people ‘this is not as good as it gets, it can be so much better’.”

Yousaf said there was “simply no doubt” that Scotland being in the ­Union was one of the reasons that people and businesses are “suffering in the way that they do”.

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“When I look at that failed ­Westminster model it is clear to me we don’t have a cost of living crisis, we have a cost of living with Westminster crisis. And we have to tell every single person in Scotland,” he said. “If you just look at the past decade, or last 13 years, what has been done to Scotland – not done by Scotland – what has been done to Scotland.

“Over 13 years of austerity, in a country that is as wealthy as ours, people are struggling to feed ­themselves. Austerity imposed on us – not of our making, not of our doing, but imposed upon us.”

He also pointed to decisions ­implemented by the UK ­Government such as a hard Brexit and Liz Truss “completely tanking” the ­economy in her short six-week stint as Prime Minister.

“We have to be confident in our arguments for independence and say to people – it doesn’t have to be this way,” he said.

“I think people have begun to think we have had 13 years of austerity that this is just the way it is – it doesn’t have to be this way.

“We have to be able to persuade people that the alternative isn’t Keir Starmer. Keir Starmer says his ­priority is growth, growth, growth.

“Well, not if you support Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.”

He added: “That is what we must ­always remind the people of Scotland – the alternative isn’t Westminster Red or Westminster Blue.

“Independence is the real ­alternative, the radical, the bold – the one that unleashes the potential of the best country in the world.”

Yousaf pledged to be an “unrelenting champion of Scotland and Scotland’s independence” as First Minister and SNP leader.

But he said the movement and ­party was “not a one-man band” and that it would take “every single person who is part of the movement” to put the case forward.

He highlighted the recent ­rally in Edinburgh held by Believe in Scotland and Yes for EU as a ­“visual reminder” of the strength of the movement.

“Can you imagine there being a pro-Union march?” he asked the crowd.

“It just wouldn’t happen and why? Because imagine trying to sell the Union, imagine trying to sell Broken Britain, Brexit Britain, cost of living Britain – imagine trying to sell that to people. If you weren’t already in the Union, do you think people would want to join?”

The National: Janey Godley.

The Believe in Scotland annual ­dinner was hosted by comedian Janey Godley (above), with music from Clann An Drumma.

The National: Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp (above), CEO of Business for Scotland, said a ­wellbeing economy could replace the failed model of a pendulum ­constantly swinging from Tory right to Labour left.

He said: “If you want to ­understand the wellbeing economy – you cannot have a thriving economy without a thriving society and you cannot have a thriving society without a thriving economy.

“They are two sides of the same coin – what we need is not to swing the pendulum from left to right and back again, what we need to ­understand is we need a wellbeing balance in our economic approach in order to have sustainable growth, in order to protect society, in order to protect trade and our businesses and economy.”

He said surveys had shown ­people supported the idea that ­wellbeing ­values such as quality of life, ­happiness and health should be given equal weight to economic growth.

He added: “The question isn’t shouldn’t we do this – the question is how the hell did our economy get so detached from the values of our people?”