FIRST Minister Humza Yousaf has urged Keir Starmer to "respect Scotland's voice" on independence if he becomes the next UK prime minister.

Yousaf invited the UK Labour leader for talks at Bute House and said he would work with Starmer on attempts to tackle child poverty during an interview with the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg. 

The SNP leader insisted that he would advocate for a second independence referendum during the talks, adding that he believed Starmer would take the keys to Number 10 after the next General Election.

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The FM said that he believed Starmer is on course to be the next prime minister, and not a "single poll" showed that is not the case.

Yousaf was probed by Kuenssberg on what kind of relationship he would seek to form with Starmer.

"I should say I'm very willing to work with an incoming Labour government," he said 

"I think there's plenty that you can work on.

"There will be disagreements, the constitution perhaps being the obvious one, but I do think there's plenty of areas we can work on."

The National:

Asked if he had spoken to Starmer or if he planned on doing so before the General Election, Yousaf said: "I've written to Keir Starmer, I've invited him to Edinburgh for a discussion.

"I'd like to speak to Keir Starmer, as the man who will undoubtedly be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, particularly on the issues of tackling child poverty.

"I think we need to work together to tackle child poverty right across the United Kingdom."

Yousaf pointed to the impact that lifting the two-child benefit cap could have to take 250,000 children out of poverty across the UK, 50,000 of them in Scotland.

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"Lets scrap the bedroom tax which is keeping too many people in poverty," he added.

Yousaf added that he would raise the issue of an independence referendum if Starmer agreed to talks in Edinburgh.

"What I would say to Keir Starmer is, SNP MPs will work with you," Yousaf added. 

"It will hardly be a surprise that when I speak to Keir Starmer, I hope he takes me up on the invitation, to me that would be the responsible thing for him to do, I will advocate for a second independence referendum because I've got all of the reasons why I think our mandate has been ignored over the years.

The National:

"I hope he'll take a respectful approach to listening to Scotland's voice."

Kuenssberg asked: "Do you accept that independence, and another referendum, are just not going to happen any time soon?"

"I don't accept it, for two reasons," Yousaf replied.

"You've got to create both the political conditions and then you've got to create popular support. 

"The political conditions is why the SNP, I believe, have to win the General Election, I want the SNP to win the General Election, to send a pretty strong message to Westminster that Scotland will not be ignored.

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"It will be very clear on page one, line on, of the manifesto that a vote for the SNP is for Scotland to become an independent country."

Kuenssberg pointed out that support for the SNP had been "sliding" in the polls.

"Not the support for independence of course," Yousaf said.

"That's my second point, you have to create the conditions for a consistent majority."

In the letter to Starmer sent on January 20, Yousaf wrote: "My government is clear that Scotland’s future is as an independent country in the European Union, and that there is a democratic mandate for a referendum on independence which should be respected.

"I would also be keen to discuss other constitutional matters with you, including your proposals for the House of Lords and the implementation of the recommendations of Gordon Brown’s Commission on the UK's Future."

He added that while the two leaders have "political differences" it should not prevent them being able to work together. 

"I hope you will accept this invitation to meet and that we can establish a working relationship in the interests of the people we represent," Yousaf wrote. 

Following the FM's interview, Scottish Tory party chairman Craig Hoy said: “This was another interview where Humza Yousaf confirmed independence will be page one, line one of the SNP manifesto.

“Instead of pursuing their obsession with breaking up the UK, the SNP should focus on the people’s real priorities: growing the economy to help Scotland’s ailing public services."

We previously told how Yousaf offered to work "constructively" with a Labour government at the SNP's General Election launch.