Humza Yousaf has accused Scottish Labour of “hubris”, claiming they believe they have already won the next general election.
Scotland’s First Minister kicked off a summer of campaigning in his Glasgow Pollok constituency on Saturday, saying the SNP would not lose seats at the next election – expected next year.
The SNP have suffered at the polls in recent months following the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon and subsequent bruising leadership campaign, as well as the arrest of Ms Sturgeon’s husband – and former party chief executive – Peter Murrell and then party treasurer Colin Beattie in relation to a police probe of the party’s finances.
Both men were released without charge pending further investigation.
Asked by the PA news agency if his party could drop seats at the next election, Mr Yousaf said: “No.
“We’re working hard to make sure we don’t lose seats, we go into every election hoping to not just hold what you’ve got but to try to win seats.”
He added: “I know that Scottish Labour have already in their hubris decided that they’ve won that election, but I’m not taking anything for granted, hence why I’m going out campaigning today.”
Mr Yousaf said he would be “knocking on doors, making the case, persuading of the fact that independence is needed now more than ever before”.
Meanwhile, former first minister Alex Salmond was campaigning in Bellshill ahead of a council by-election there caused by the resignation of former North Lanarkshire council leader Jordan Linden after accusations of sexual impropriety.
Joining his party’s candidate in the ward John Marshall, Mr Salmond said the independence movement must highlight that the cost-of-living crisis is “a symptom of Westminster rule”.
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “Scotland desperately needs change but Humza Yousaf and the SNP are incapable of delivering it.
“The next general election is a chance to boot out this disastrous Tory government and only Labour can do that.
“Scottish Labour is working around the clock to earn back voters’ trust and demonstrate that we can deliver the change Scotland needs.”