Humza Yousaf was accused of “trying to divide people even more than Nicola Sturgeon did” after declaring that Scotland could abandon the monarchy within five years of independence.
The SNP leadership candidate insisted that Scots should not be “shy” about the debate over the Royal Family’s future, and that he is “very clear” that he is a Republican.
However, the Scottish Conservatives have accused Mr Yousaf of “shamelessly pandering” to anti-monarchist SNP members.
Scottish Conservative MSP Sharon Dowey said: “Humza Yousaf is shamelessly pandering to the republican base of the SNP support.
“The monarchy remains one of our most loved and respected institutions, as shown by the outpouring of grief when Her Majesty The Queen passed away last year.
“By pushing to scrap a symbol of our United Kingdom, it seems like Humza Yousaf is trying to divide people even more than Nicola Sturgeon did.
“The Health Secretary should be focusing on the crisis on his watch in the NHS, rather than talking up his anti-monarchy views.”
Politics expert Adrian Hilton added: “Humza Yousaf is placing the biggest barnacle on the SNP’s boat: while there are republicans in the movement, many SNP members seek to preserve the union of crowns which predates the Acts of Union. Retaining the monarchy boosts independence support.
“Nicola Sturgeon understood this absolutely: ‘I support the Queen and her successors remaining head of state – it is the policy of my party.’
“For Humza Yousaf to abandon this settlement will simply (and unnecessarily) alienate his potential supporters.”
It comes after Mr Yousaf suggested a five-year timeline for a decision on scrapping the monarchy – which has a close connection to Scotland – if he wins the SNP leadership race.
He told The National: “Let’s also talk about things like monarchy.
“I don’t know why we should be shy about that, I don’t think we should be.
“I’ve been very clear, I’m a Republican. That’s never been anything I’ve hidden.
“But let’s absolutely within the first five years consider whether or not we should move away from having a monarchy into an elected head of state.”