SNP crisis

Regan may hold key as Yousaf refuses to resign

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf now faces a no confidence vote (pic: Terry Murden)

Humza Yousaf insisted he would not resign as First Minister and would appeal to the other parties at Holyrood to help make minority government work.

Mr Yousaf was left clinging to his position after his decision to terminate the power-sharing deal with the Greens backfired and prompted two confidence votes.

The Tories, who have tabled a no confidence vote in his leadership, tonight said they would back Labour’s no confidence vote in the government, expected next week. If successful, it would be binding and would lead to a general election.

Amid talk of horse-trading among the parties, it could be left to ex-SNP MSP Ash Regan, now Holyrood leader of the breakaway Alba party, to decide Mr Yousaf’s fate as she could have the casting vote.

Mr Yousaf’s office began re-arranging his itinerary for the coming days following a chaotic two days that have split his own party. A scheduled address today at Strathclyde University on the latest independence paper was among the events called off.

Instead he visited Dundee to announce an £80m upift in investment in affordable housing, which itself drew criticism for falling short of what is required.

Homes for Scotland said it would “do little to alleviate the glaring black hole” in the supply budget following a 26% cut, “‘and absolutely nothing to increase the overall supply of homes”.

His decision to focus on housing came just two days after his housing minister Paul McLennan took the brunt of criticism of government policy at the Scottish Property Federation conference. Mr McLennan was accused of “killing the market”.

Today, following the sacking of tenants’ rights minister and Green co-leader Patrick Harvie, he said he was now working alone on housing policy and would focus on investment, a move that will be welcomed by the industry.

But division within the SNP was apparent with one former ally and supporter of the leader saying: “He’s done. Whether it’s today, tomorrow or later than that, he’s done”. Among potential successors, Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has ruled himself out of any potential leadership contest.

Mr Yousaf is now attempting to force back the tide turning against him. During his visit to Dundee he said he wanted to “reset” his government. He has written to Holyrood’s other leaders inviting them to a meeting in an attempt to “make minority government work”.

Ash Regan at Alba conference
Ash Regan: will make demands on the SNP leader

The First Minister stunned Holyrood on Thursday morning by announcing that the Bute House Agreement that brought the Greens into power in 2021 had “served its purpose” and was no longer providing stability. The Cabinet was not consulted but was told of his decision at an emergency meeting at his official residence in Edinburgh.

The sacking of Circularity Minister Lorna Slater and the Net Zero and Tenants Rights’ minister Patrick Harvie – joint leaders of the Scottish Greens – prompted a furious reaction from Ms Slater who accused Mr Yousaf of “political cowardice”.

Mr Yousaf has been attempting to soften the blow by appealing to the Greens to continue working with the SNP. But Mr Harvie said Mr Yousaf had broken their trust.

He said: “He needs to bear the consequences of that reckless and damaging decision [to abandon the agreement]. I think it’s pretty clear he’s not the person who is going to be able to bring together a majority of parliament.”

Humza Yousaf-speaking-at-Bute-House-25-apr
Mr Yousaf speaking at Bute House after his decision

Business groups welcomed the demise of the Greens who have been seen as an obstruction to growth and whose competency to govern has been questioned. There was a call to “reset” relations between the government and business and to ditch policies that have proved hugely unpopular.

Mr Yousaf was forced to deny that he had pre-empted a vote by the Greens, was had been scheduled for next month, on whether to remain in government following the SNP’s decision to abandon a key climate target.

His fate could rest on Ms Regan, a former party leadership rival, whom he described as “no great loss” following her defection last year to Alex Salmond’s Alba Party.

The former First Minister said that Ms Regan, who has sent the SNP a list of demands around independence and women’s rights, was now the “most powerful MSP in the Scottish parliament” and criticised what he called Mr Yousaf’s “kamikaze instinct”.

Should Mr Yousaf lose next week’s vote and resigned it would take 28 days for a majority of MSPs to elect a new first minister. If it failed to do so, parliament would be dissolved and a snap election called.

Green party members looking glum in the parliament yesterday

Business leaders said the changes at Holyrood should prompt changes in government policy, including a hastening of issues such as dualling the A9 and a review of rent controls.

Tracy Black, devolved nations ambassador at the CBI, said: “People and businesses across Scotland are far less interested in political drama than they are in having a government that is laser focused on improving lives and livelihoods.

“With the Scottish economy continuing to tread water, that means we need everyone pulling in the same direction to boost growth.”

Scottish Financial Enterprise chief executive Sandy Begbie commented: “There have been too many issues where business concerns have gone unheeded, including DRS, the retail levy, tax divergence and the Heat in Buildings draft legislation which is not fit for purpose.

“The policy-making process works best when government and business work hand in hand and we urge ministers to use this reset to engage meaningfully with the private sector to deliver better policy and economic outcomes.”

Innes Smith, chief executive of Springfield Properties, said: “We are very hopeful that the SNP now has the opportunity to reconnect with businesses and implement policies that get us to net zero, while encouraging lost housing investment back into Scotland and enabling the delivery of the quality homes across multiple tenures that are so desperately needed.”

Scottish Property Federation chair Maria Francké joined him in stating that the change should be taken as an opportunity to refocus priorities.

One Comment to Regan may hold key as Yousaf refuses to resign

  1. Surely Ash Regan cannot support Humza Yousaf given their track record. In her mind he was not competent enough for her to continue to work with him but she might now support him purely in her own self-interest. Hypocritical. The electorate may not forgive her at the next poll, she should consider that. Thus far it’s also unreported whether Fergus Ewing and one or two other fringe SNP rebels will provide support to the FM so she may broker a deal but it come to nothing.

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