SNP leader Humza Yousaf’s fate in the balance as former coalition partners say they will vote to oust him

The leader’s future could be decided by former party colleague who defected to Alex Salmond’s Alba party

Kate Devlin,Archie Mitchell
Thursday 25 April 2024 19:31 BST
Humza Yousaf jokes about 'breakup' with Greens as Scottish coalition deal ends

Humza Yousaf could be forced to resign as first minister next week after his former coalition partners said they would vote against him in a no confidence vote.

The move came just hours after the Scottish government partnership collapsed as the SNP leader ended his coalition agreement with the Greens.

Tensions between the two parties reached the point of no return after ministers ditched a key climate change target and moved to pause the use of puberty blockers.

Mr Yousaf’s fate could now hang on a former SNP MSP he defeated in last year’s leadership contest, Ash Regan, who defected to join Alex Salmond’s centre-right nationalist party Alba. Mr Yousaf famously said her departure was “no great loss”.

The vote is not binding, meaning it would be up to the first minister to decide how to respond to losing the confidence of the Scottish parliament.

However, he would be expected to face intense pressure that could make his position untenable.

Humza Yousaf says the SNP is used to operating as a minority party
Humza Yousaf says the SNP is used to operating as a minority party (PA)

The Scottish Conservatives lodged a motion for a vote of no confidence, attacking what it said was a “coalition of chaos” that had now “ended in chaos”.

Mr Yousaf said at a press conference that he intended to govern as a minority government, which he conceded would be “tough”, but added that the SNP has done so for the majority of its time in power.

He promised to continue working with MSPs from across the chamber, and said he has shown “a willingness to work” across the political divide as a minister for several years.

He was quizzed about the statement two days ago that he valued the Bute House Agreement and hoped for it to continue.

The deal, which was signed in 2021 and is named after the official residence of the first minister in Edinburgh, brought the Scottish Greens into government for the first time anywhere in the UK.

Mr Yousaf said: “I stand by what I have said. I value the Bute House Agreement and what it has achieved, no ifs, buts and maybes.

“What this shows is leadership, what it shows is me having the ability to demonstrate leadership. He said the Bute House Agreement had come to a “natural conclusion”.

Scottish Greens co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie in Edinburgh earlier this week
Scottish Greens co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie in Edinburgh earlier this week (PA)

The deal gave the SNP a majority at Holyrood when the votes of its MSPs were combined with those of the seven Greens members, and also made Greens co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater junior ministers in the Scottish government.

Without it the SNP will need to operate as a minority administration at Holyrood, holding 63 of the parliament’s 129 seats. The Scottish Tories hold 31 seats, Labour have 22, the Scottish Greens hold seven and the Liberal Democrats have four. The collapse comes at an increasingly challenging time for the SNP, with former chief executive Peter Murrell, ex-first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, having been charged in connection with the embezzlement of SNP funds.

Police Scotland confirmed this month that Mr Murrell, who served as the party’s chief executive for 22 years, had been arrested and charged over the investigation. Ms Sturgeon was arrested two months after her husband was first arrested in April last year, while former party treasurer Colin Beattie was also arrested last year. Both were released without charge, pending further investigation.

Ahead of the coalition’s collapse, high-profile figures in the SNP, such as former leadership candidate Kate Forbes and party stalwart Fergus Ewing, have previously called for the deal to be ended.

Ash Regan defected from the SNP to join Alba
Ash Regan defected from the SNP to join Alba (PA)

Scottish Greens said last week it would hold a vote on the future of the Bute House Agreement. Ms Slater accused the SNP of “selling out future generations” by walking away from the Bute House deal.

Confirming the end of the cooperation agreement she said: “This is an act of political cowardice by the SNP, who are selling out future generations to appease the most reactionary forces in the country.

"They have broken the bonds of trust with members of both parties who have twice chosen the co-operation agreement and climate action over chaos, culture wars and division. They have betrayed the electorate.”

She also called on SNP members who care about the climate, trans rights and independence to switch to the Scottish Greens.

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said the scrapping of the Bute House Agreement highlights how “inept” Mr Humza Yousaf is.

Mr Hoy said: “The collapse of this toxic coalition is an utter humiliation for Humza Yousaf, who hailed it as ‘worth its weight in gold’ and continued to back it to the hilt right until the end.”

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