Scottish independence is “essential to the long-term recovery” of the country from Covid-19, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has said.
The SNP MSP said in a speech on Monday that independence would not be a “distraction” from the fallout of the pandemic.
It comes as a number of opposition politicians, including former prime minister Gordon Brown, have called on the SNP to prioritise jobs and the economy over the constitution.
With independence the key element of the SNP campaign, Mr Yousaf became the latest in a line of the party’s leading MSPs who said a referendum would only be held after the pandemic was over.
Nicola Sturgeon suggested in an interview last week it could be in the first two and a half years of the next parliamentary term.
“Once the Covid crisis is over, we believe people in Scotland must have the right to decide their own future and whether they wish to become an independent country,” he said.
“Independence is not a distraction from recovery, it is essential for the long-term recovery people in Scotland deserve and need.
“It will equip our country and our Parliament with the powers to build the better Scotland we know is possible.”
Mr Yousaf singled out the Labour Party as “shrugging their shoulders” while the UK Government does “real harm” to Scotland.
He said: “In an independent Scotland the decisions about our future will be decided by the people who live here, not by Westminster.
“So other parties in this election, like Labour, who say we should not have the right to determine our own future, they’ve made a choice.
“In the face of a Tory Government at Westminster that is doing real harm to Scotland, they’re just shrugging their shoulders.
“They’ve decided Westminster should be allowed to decide Scotland’s future – they are giving permission to Boris Johnson to continue taking Scotland in the wrong direction.
“That’s not standing up for Scotland or recovery – it’s letting people in Scotland down.”