FM meets PM
Yousaf to press indy and whisky case with Sunak
Humza Yousaf: whisky sector at a disadvantage (pic: Terry Murden)
First Minister Humza Yousaf will today press Rishi Sunak to rethink the hike in whisky duty and the industry’s exclusion from support with energy bills.
Mr Yousaf is also expected to use his first meeting with the Prime Minister in London to put the case for an independence referendum and more powers for the Scottish parliament.
The pair will meet in-person for the first time this evening. He will also hold meetings with key ambassadors to the UK including those from Germany and Ukraine, and with the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
The First Minister has called for more borrowing powers to be given to Holyrood and may also raise the prospect of other policy areas, such as employment law, being devolved.
Mr Yousaf will say that the decision to increase tax on whisky by more than 10%, at the same time as refusing to provide the energy-bill support the rest of the drinks industry receives, “puts the industry – and Scotland – at a competitive disadvantage.”
Ahead of the meeting, he said: “This is a direct breach of the explicit pledge the Prime Minister was elected on as an MP in 2019. The Conservative manifesto was clear that they would review duty to help support the Scotch whisky industry.”
The Scotch Whisky Association last week launched a #KeepTheCommitment campaign urging the UK government to uphold the pledge and called for support from MPs.
However, Mr Yousaf will not be able to escape the pressures mounting in Holyrood. A new temporary treasurer has been appointed by the SNP with the aim of improving governance and transparency. But time is running out for it to get its finances in order ahead of a deadline for filing accounts to the Electoral Commission.
As the self-proclaimed “continuity” First Minister Mr Yousaf is also immediately tarnished with a regime that is losing its grip on its members and the voters.
The opinion polls show a deterioration in support for both the SNP and independence, while the party nervously awaits news on whether former leader Nicola Sturgeon will join those who have been questioned by the police over the missing campaign money. Should this happen it will be another hammer blow to the SNP’s reputation.
All of this is encouraging some to write off Mr Yousaf who is only a month into the job. Some are even calling for him to stand down to allow the SNP to make a proper fresh start.
Mr Yousaf will be determined to show he can be his own man but the meeting with the Prime Minister may be a first test of how much ground he can gain.
Should he return from London empty-handed it may provide his critics with more ammunition to portray him as a lame duck leader.