HUMZA Yousaf has urged pro-independence voters to reject Anas Sarwar’s bid to secure their votes at the next General Election.

While Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has suggested the next UK-wide vote will not be held until the later half of the year, both parties are set to kick off campaigning ahead of Holyrood returning from recess next week.

The Scottish Labour leader kicked off his party’s campaign in Rutherglen on Monday morning with a specific pitch geared towards winning over Yessers, with the SNP leader set to deliver his campaign launch speech on Friday.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf gives major independence speech with new policy unveiled

Sarwar asked pro-independence voters to give Scottish Labour the “opportunity to show you that we can make the UK work for every corner of our country, including here in Scotland”.

But the First Minister urged voters to stick with the SNP at a major independence speech at Glasgow University on Monday afternoon, where he set out new industrial strategy policies.

Asked what his message is to Yes supporters who may be considering switching to Labour at the next General Election, Yousaf said he believed voters “trust the SNP to stand up for Scotland”.

“They trust us to make sure Scotland’s voice is heard,” he added.

The National:

“That doesn’t mean you have to agree with every single one of our policies, but what is not in dispute is that we have SNP MPs standing up for Scotland.

“Scottish Labour MPs will listen to what Keir Starmer has to say.”

Yousaf then criticised Scottish Labour’s newest MP Michael Shanks, after Sarwar’s campaign launch was targeted by campaigners who criticised the Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP’s stance on Gaza.

“Michael Shanks is the perfect example, the ceasefire vote in Gaza that his own leader Anas Sarwar himself said he, and I genuinely believe he is, in favour of a ceasefire,” the FM added.

READ MORE: New North Sea oil licences 'make no real difference' to energy costs

“Yet one of his Scottish MPs ignored him, ignored his Scottish leader, and decided to do what Keir Starmer said.

“And I think he got rewarded with a front bench post for doing so.

“You can either have a Labour MP that will stand up for Keir Starmer or SNP MPs who will stand up for Scotland, we will always fight for the best interests of the Scottish public.”

Shanks was given the role of shadow Scotland minister just weeks into the job, after swathes of Labour MPs and frontbenchers resigned their positions over leader Keir Starmer’s refusal to call for a ceasefire.

The National:

The SNP forced a vote on the issue with an amendment to the King’s Speech calling for a ceasefire, but Shanks and shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray both backed Labour’s amendment instead, which called for “humanitarian pauses”.

Yousaf was also asked, following a major speech on independence and the economy, how crucial he believed those who don’t support independence are to the result of the General Election and his economic plans.

“My job is to appeal to everybody whether they voted no, yes, or didn’t vote at all in 2014, regardless of the way they voted in the independence referendum or past general elections,” he said.

“My job is to ensure that they believe that the SNP stand up for them.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf: 'Much to learn' from those who oppose independence

“That is often the strongest reaction that I get on the doorstep for people who agree with my policy, some disagree with my policies, the strongest reaction I get from people is that they genuinely believe the SNP stands up for Scotland and that will be our core message throughout this General Election campaign.”

We told how Sarwar said during his speech in Rutherglen that 2024 is a chance to “turn the page on the SNP” as well as the Tories.

However, the Scottish Labour leader refused to say what further powers he would want devolved to Holyrood despite probing from journalists at the event.