May 19, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Will winning a vote of confidence be enough to save Hamza Yusuf?

Will winning a vote of confidence be enough to save Hamza Yusuf?

Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf is spending the weekend fighting for his political life.

The Scottish National Party leader is expected to make a series of political announcements in the coming days as he attempts to rally support.

He will set out plans to create jobs, tackle climate change and improve public services, BBC News was told.

Youssef may face two votes of no confidence next week, one in himself and one in his government.

Youssef said he was determined to focus on “the people's priorities.”

The First Minister has previously faced criticism from within his own party over the impact of the Green Party's approach to economic and social policy on the SNP and the country.

Mr Youssef knows this, and his attempt to regain control of the narrative he is in danger of walking away from began on Friday in Dundee.

He was due to be in Glasgow to give a speech on “The labor market in an independent Scotland”.

Instead, Youssef was wandering around a construction site, trying to look purposeful while wearing a hard hat and high-visibility jacket.

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Hamza Yousaf visited a construction site in Dundee on Friday morning

The First Minister told me: “If you ask people about housing, it is one of the most important issues on your doorstep.”

However, at the moment, it is not the people on the doorstep who need convincing. Among the opposition politicians in the Scottish Parliament.

If every opposition member voted against Youssef in a personal vote of confidence he would lose, and although he is not legally obligated to resign, the political pressure to do so would be enormous.

If Youssef can convince any or all of the powerful seven-member Greens to change their minds about opposing him, he may be able to survive.

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, The Scottish Greens have strongly criticized Humza Yousaf for ending the power-sharing agreement

The other option for him is to win the support of Ash Regan, his former rival for the leadership of the Scottish National Party, who jumped to Alex Salmond's Alba party in October.

Mrs. Reagan has been setting the price for her support, and it is rising.

First, she called for the formation of a competent government, a renewed focus on independence, and work to protect “the dignity, safety and rights of women and children,” a reference to the gender debate at the heart of many of Youssef’s problems.

Mrs Regan then added to the list measures to safeguard the future of the Grangemouth refinery in the Firth of Forth.

Mr Youssef is writing to Holyrood leaders from all parties, offering to hold meetings to discuss how to “make a minority government work”.

“Professional courtesy”

Speaking to BBC News, Mrs. Reagan seemed to suggest that would not be enough.

She also revealed that she has not had a single conversation with Mr Youssef since he defeated her in the leadership contest last spring.

Video explanation, Ash Regan says she has not spoken to Humza Yousaf in more than a year

Youssef had described the departure of his former rival from the Scottish National Party as “not a particularly great loss.”

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, Gillian MacKay, a Green Party member for central Scotland, defended the power-sharing deal originally reached under Nicola Sturgeon in 2021.

She added: “What the First Minister is saying to us is: You have been disposed of, but can we remain friends?”

“I'm actually very upset,” Ms MacKay said, appearing to cry. “We don't want to be in this position, but this is the First Minister who put us here.”

From Youssef, there was a hint of something close to remorse about all this sentiment, when he told me that he sympathized with the Green Party co-leaders, Patrick Harvey and Lorna Slater, whom he expelled from his cabinet, costing them their ministerial posts.

He told me that he “didn't mean to upset them,” adding that he understood why they were so angry.

Does his letter to them contain an apology?

“Electoral hell”

Either way, back channels between the SNP and the opposition parties are already open.

Wheel and handling are spot on.

After the collapse of the Boathouse agreement, he described it as “a Faustian pact that would have brought us to the gates of electoral hell.”

How could he win against the likes of Ewing, Mrs Reagan and former Scottish National Party finance minister Kate Forbes, whom he narrowly defeated to become leader, while also reaching out to his party's left wing and the Greens?

To put it more bluntly: after a week of turmoil, how can he survive for long even if he narrowly wins the vote of confidence?

The answer, according to another senior source close to Youssef, is harsh: “He cannot.”