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Humza Yousaf’s time is running out

Humza Yousaf announces the SNP will withdraw from the Bute House Agreement earlier today. Credit: Getty

April 25, 2024 - 3:15pm

The Bute House Agreement — the coalition cobbled together by Nicola Sturgeon after her second failure to secure an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament — has today collapsed.

Humza Yousaf fought hard for it. In last year’s leadership contest, he squarely opposed the growing number of Scottish Nationalists who wanted rid of the partnership; even days ago, he was still saying publicly that he hoped it could be salvaged.

But in the end, the prospect of getting dumped by the SNP’s junior partners was a potential humiliation big enough to show up even on the First Minister’s poorly-attuned radar. Instead of letting the Green membership vote on the deal next month, he tore it up himself.

It ought to help that they chose to draw their line in the sand on two policy areas — trans issues and the environment — where they are completely out of step with Scottish public opinion. It was Sturgeon’s desperate push for the Gender Recognition Reform Bill that gave Westminster the opening to wield its veto on Holyrood legislation for the first time; it’s fitting that the issue should crack her coalition too.

While voters clearly value the importance of the climate, the Greens’ policies on this front — a botched deposit return scheme, a mooted ban on wood-burning stoves, paused proposals to close huge swathes of Scotland’s seas from all human activity — have been the distilled essence of incompetent metropolitan posturing.

Yet Yousaf can hardly strike any bold poses on either subject: both were his issues too, as they were — and indeed are — for much of the Sturgeonite wing of the SNP. As such, the repudiation of Bute House is much more a vindication of Kate Forbes, the more conservative runner-up in last year’s leadership contest, than it could ever be for him.

The vote of no confidence tabled by the Scottish Tories today has been backed by the Greens, the avowedly separatist party lining up alongside Unionists to bring down the SNP. Yousaf’s fate may now lie in the hands of Alba’s Ash Regan, who stood for the leadership last year while still an SNP MSP.

There are implications, too, for the next elections to the Scottish Parliament in 2026. Now unburdened by the responsibilities of office — which they did not take especially seriously in any event — the Greens may hope that the SNP will henceforth be the sole focus of voters’ mounting anger about the state of Scotland.

More significantly, it now seems extremely unlikely that the two main pro-independence parties will be able to fight that election on a common platform — robbing them of the chance to claim a direct mandate that might have bounced Westminster into granting another referendum.

Another question is the extent to which a falling out between the SNP and the Greens affects voters’ willingness to split their votes between the two. To date, the Greens have carved out their position at Holyrood by effectively gaming the system, pitching for the list top-up votes of separatist voters that would otherwise have gone to waste when the SNP was winning most of the first-past-the-post constituencies in each region.

If the Nationalists continue on their current trajectory, that cosy arrangement will be much less palatable to them in 2026. If Labour — and, indeed, the other Unionist parties — look set to make real headway in the constituencies, the SNP will suddenly have to start fighting for as many of those list votes as it can get.

All of a sudden, the needs of the party will conflict with any aspiration toward Nationalist unity. The SNP will need to take the fight to the Greens — and may want a leader better suited to the battle.


Henry Hill is Deputy Editor of ConservativeHome.

HCH_Hill

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Mike Downing
Mike Downing
27 days ago

No doubt, when he finally gets the boot, he’ll blame it on ‘systemic racism’. After all, nothing is ever this idiot’s fault.

David L
David L
27 days ago

I thought it would be impossible to be more nauseating than Sturgeon, but by god he manages it. Have to give him credit where its due.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
27 days ago
Reply to  David L

Love her or hate her, at least Sturgeon could lay claim to providing leadership. This guy is just a wet flannel.

Peter Woodifield
Peter Woodifield
26 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Only in the sense of leading her troops to the top of the hill and then down again. You need to be more than a good communicator to be a good leader.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
25 days ago

Exactly. Aimless wandering is not leading, even if there is a figurehead first in line.

Andrew F
Andrew F
26 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

She provided no leadership.
It was illusion created by MSM, especially BBC, which constantly claimed how brilliant Scotland was in comparison to England.
Whereas, despise huge English taxpayers subsidies, Scotland education system and NHS were falling apart.

Fraoch A
Fraoch A
26 days ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Whit utter rubbish. T he BBC talkin up Scotland ..aye dight. nd furthermore se do not get “subsidies” fae english taxpayers. Such ignorance

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
27 days ago

Laser-like focus on inflated gender and racial issues is a recipe for political failure. The electorate is heartily sick of being lectured on these topics, yet politicians continue to double-down on them. They either purposefully plan to lose, or they are so out-of-touch that they can no longer see outside their ideological bubbles.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
27 days ago

The credibility of Ash Regan, of Alba, and thus of Alex Salmond, now depends on Regan’s vote to bring down Humza Yousaf. This is where getting into bed with the Greens ends up. They are affronted that, insofar as it is true, Yousaf might have given priority to the views of members of his own party over a those of a junior coalition partner. They keep Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in power. They provide the war-crazy Foreign Minister of Germany. And in the forthcoming First Past the Post election, they are fielding a candidate against Jamie Driscoll.

AC Harper
AC Harper
27 days ago

I begin to wonder if history will regard Humza Yousaf as a John Major-like figure. A politician following on from a (discarded) strong leader and struggling to hold the line. Perhaps in time he will become and Elder Statesman?

John Murray
John Murray
27 days ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Sheik Humza The Wise. Nah, can’t really see it. Maybe in Scotland, shallow talent pool.

Carol Forshaw
Carol Forshaw
27 days ago
Reply to  AC Harper

In the 1992 election John Major won a huge popular vote. This was not reflected in seats because of the first past the post system. Humza Useless would dream of such support.

Elon Workman
Elon Workman
26 days ago

Given the present situation I just wonder whether Scotland would have been better governed had devolution never taken place. After all both Labour and Conservative governments at Westminster seem to have given the SNP whatever it has demanded including the 2014 Independence Referendum. The Barnett formula still remains in place and the West Lothian question still remains unanswered.