Humza Yousaf will be confirmed as Scottish First Minister TODAY after ‘gaffe machine’ barely scraped home in SNP leadership battle despite backing from ‘entire party establishment’
Humza Yousaf will be confirmed as Scotland’s new First Minister today after scraping home in the SNP leadership battle.
Mr Yousaf will be confirmed in the role by a vote at Holyrood this afternoon, with Nicola Sturgeon formally sending her resignation letter to the King this morning.
But he faces a mammoth task to revive the separatists’ ailing fortunes after an extraordinary meltdown over the abortive bid to loosen gender ID rules, and with support for independence well under 50 per cent.
Mr Yousaf has already pledged to push on with Ms Sturgeon’s agenda on trans rights and demanded an immediate referendum on splitting the UK – something Rishi Sunak has flatly dismissed.
Allies of Mr Yousaf – ridiculed by political opponents over his track record as a ‘gaffe machine’ – indicated he is likely to hand a senior job to his leadership rival Kate Forbes. She tore into his record handling the health service during the campaign, and has warned the closer-than-expected 52 per cent-48 per cent result shows ‘continuity won’t cut it’.
Humza Yousaf will be installed as Scotland’s new First Minister today after scraping home in the SNP leadership battle yesterday (pictured)
Allies of Mr Yousaf – ridiculed by political opponents over his track record as a ‘gaffe machine’ – indicated he is likely to hand a senior job to his leadership rival Kate Forbes (right)
Mr Yousaf will be confirmed in the role by a vote at Holyrood this afternoon, with Nicola Sturgeon formally sending her resignation letter to the King this morning
Critics have also pointed out that Mr Yousaf only just emerged on top despite having that backing of ‘the entire SNP establishment’.
Tories believe that Mr Yousaf’s triumph will help secure the union, as Ms Forbes would have been a more dangerous opponent. However, it could also be a major opportunity for Labour, which is eyeing picking up a dozen seats north of the border at a general election.
The 37-year-old will become the youngest First Minister, and the first from an ethnic minority.
Douglas Ross of the Scottish Conservatives, Anas Sarwar of Scottish Labour and Alex Cole-Hamilton of the Scottish Liberal Democrats are also expected to put their names forward.
They will be asked to speak by Alison Johnstone – the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament – with a separate vote for each, but as they lack the numbers they are set to fail.
Mr Yousaf has the backing of the Scottish Greens, who have reiterated their commitment to the Bute House Agreement – a powersharing deal which gives the SNP an overall majority.
Assuming he wins the vote Mr Yousaf will be sworn in as first minister of Scotland at the Court of Session in Edinburgh tomorrow, before facing his first FMQs on Thursday.
But an Ipsos poll has underlined the challenges ahead of him, with half of Scots fearing the country is heading in the wrong direction.
Across all policy areas – from the NHS to managing the economy – more felt the Scottish Government had done a bad job than good.
Election guru Sir John Curtice said Labour now has an opportunity to win at least 10 Scottish seats in a general election.
Sir John, who is professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, told TalkTV: ‘I think the Labour Party will certainly feel they have an opportunity and they are quite right to feel that way.
Ms Forbes tore into Mr Yousaf’s record handling the health service during the campaign, and has warned the close 52 per cent-48 per cent result shows ‘continuity won’t cut it’
‘They are now running at about 30 per cent in Scotland. That leaves them only 10 points behind the SNP.
‘The reason why that matters is that at kind of level of lead, the Labour Party begins to pick up seats from the SNP.
‘There are around 10 seats in Scotland which might fall to Labour if the SNP lead across Scotland as a whole is down to 10 points.’
He added: ‘The Labour Party is the one unionist party that has some ability to appeal to some people who are in favour of independence but are not necessarily going to vote for the SNP.
‘The crucial question is whether the Labour Party can increase that constituency.’
Mr Yousaf’s campaign manager said he will have conversations about bringing defeated leadership rivals Ms Forbes and Ash Regan into government.
Neil Gray, the Scottish culture minister and MSP for Airdrie and Shotts, told Times Radio: ‘There are conversations to be had about government going forward and the make-up, the structure and those that are involved in government.
‘I’ll leave it to Humza to have those conversations over the coming days.’
He added: ‘In terms of what Humza will do differently, he has already said that he will be his own man. He will have his own leadership style.’
Mr Gray also confirmed that Mr Yousaf will continue to challenge the UK’s block on the SNP gender reforms.
‘Of course he is going to listen to the legal advice – he has to do that – but there is an important principle at stake which is about the democracy and the democratic mandate given to the Scottish Parliament that must be defended,’ he said.
‘A two-thirds majority passed the Gender Recognition Bill in the Scottish Parliament
‘MSPs from every single political party supported it, so it is right now that Humza Yousaf – at the first time that section 35 of the Scotland Act has been used – tests that and challenges it, because democracy is at stake.
‘We must defend Scottish democracy and devolution. Otherwise, what is the point?’
‘He will look to utilise the talent across the party in a big-tent approach.’
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