HUMZA Yousaf has said he will back a change in his independence strategy at the SNP conference to winning a majority of Westminster seats - to help unite his party.

The First Minister had put forward a motion for the gathering, which begins tomorrow, proposing the Scottish Government would be empowered to begin negotiations for independence with the UK Government based on winning the “most” seats at a General Election.

But in an interview with The National, Yousaf said he will now accept an amendment to change this to “majority” of seats.

He said he changed his position in a bid to “take as many people in the party with us on a unified approach” and said the party should be upbeat about its chances in the General Election, despite the recent by-election loss.

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Yousaf said: “The biggest motivator for me is party unity. If I could have accepted every single amendment I would have, but there are key differences between some of them so I just can’t do it.

“The main driver for me is having a coherent narrative but party unity – I’m all about party unity and I just can't stress enough divided parties are not going to gain electoral success.

“So we have to be united – so my main motivator was to try to take as many people and as much of the party along with me.”

The SNP leader has accepted most of the amendments which have been put forward to his motion – including demands for a transfer of powers to allow Scotland to legislate for a referendum if it wins the General Election on that basis and setting up a Constitutional Convention to take forward independence negotiations.

He is also backing a call for a renewed independence campaign and for the words “Independence for Scotland” to be added to the party’s name and logo on ballot papers.

However he has rejected two amendments – both of which propose the mandate for independence should be based on winning a majority of votes.

All of the amendments will be discussed and voted on by delegates. Yousaf said he expected a good and “pretty robust” debate and if SNP members did back the votes strategy he would accept it.

“I’m accepting what conference decide - end of,” he said.

“Conference is a decision making body, I have been in the party for almost 20 years, I’ve always accepted the position of conference. I’ve argued sometimes against amendments, I’ve argued for different positions to be adopted, but once the party, once delegates, once membership say that is the position we are adopting, we all have a duty – leadership included – to get round it.”

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Asked why he had shifted his position to backing a majority rather than “most seats” he said: “For me it was about listening to what the party had to say, trying to accept as many amendments as I possibly can so that I can show I am a leader who is not top down but willing to listen from the bottom up.

“It’s an amendment that doesn’t make a terrible amount of difference to the strategic direction and how we approach the General Election – as we should approach the General Election looking to retain our seats and wherever possible to win some additional seats, particularly Conservative seats, which I think would have resulted in a majority of seats anyway.”

Basing the strategy on winning a majority of seats means potentially having to win more than under his previous plan. But Yousaf said his party should be “upbeat” about its chances in the General Election, despite Labour recently winning Rutherglen and Hamilton West with more than double the number of votes than the SNP.

“Let’s be honest, it was going to be a very difficult mountain for the SNP to climb to retain that seat, give all the contextual factors,” he said.

“My belief has always been we can go into the General Election positively with a strong base, with a strong message – particularly given more and more Keir Starmer triangulates his policies with the Conservatives, the more he lurches to the right, the more there is an opportunity the closer we get to the General Election for the SNP to come through the middle and be the only progressive party that is talking to the issues that matter to people.”

He added: “Rutherglen is a wake-up call in lots of different ways in terms of what the party has to do to make sure it’s fighting fit in time for the General Election, but we cannot and should not be fatalistic about our chances in the General Election.

“We should be upbeat about our chances in the General Election.”

Yousaf said that after a decision on the independence strategy is made at conference, the party will need to “draw a line under the discussion” and move on with the campaign for winning the case for independence.

“To be frank, once we have had that debate on Sunday, every single member of the party has to come together and say that is it – we are united, we are getting on with the job of convincing more and more people about the merits of independence, the talk of process is now done, it’s finished, it’s over,” he said.

“That conversation about the process isn’t going to attract people to our cause – it’s an important debate to have because we have to have a strategy on how to progress.

“But the debate has to be around policy, it has to be about the why of independence and why independence is absolutely crucial and critical to people’s lives.”