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by Louise Wilson
25 April 2024
Green’s fury is Humza Yousaf’s greatest miscalculation

By ending the SNP/Green deal, Humza Yousaf ended a majority government | Alamy

Green’s fury is Humza Yousaf’s greatest miscalculation

Humza Yousaf’s greatest miscalculation in office – and let’s face it, there have been a few – may be exactly how angry the Scottish Greens would be at his termination of the Bute House Agreement. 

And now it looks like those same angry Green MSPs have the fate of the first minister in their hands. 

With Douglas Ross having today confirmed his intention to table a motion of no-confidence in the first minister, the Greens are the only voting bloc not yet to say how they will vote. 

In the last few minutes, the party have announced a media huddle for the end of the day in which they are expected to set out their stance. 

Yousaf will be hoping the group will abstain – it’s the only way he will, surely, survive. 

By ending the SNP/Green deal, he ended a majority government, and so basic parliamentary arithmetic means the opposition outnumber the governing party. 

There are 63 SNP MSPs and 57 Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem MSPs. If the Greens side with the rest of the opposition, that brings the tally to 63-64. 

And then there’s Alba’s Ash Regan. Famously not a fan of Greens, she’s as happy as the rest to see an end to the deal. “I am glad to see the extremely unpopular politics of the Greens have been abandoned and the SNP have found a backbone,” she wrote on X. 

But that doesn’t mean she’s ready to back her former party either. She has reportedly written to the first minister and will decide her vote based on his response – and if she does indeed decide she has confidence in Yousaf, that brings the tally to a dead heat. 

That would give the deciding vote to Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone, who by convention would vote for the status quo – and therefore against the motion. Yousaf would win by the skin of his teeth. 

Which means Regan, if the Greens are angry enough to vote against Yousaf, becomes the next most powerful person in Scottish politics. 

Probably not what Yousaf was expecting when he beat her in the SNP leadership election just 13 months ago. 

The first minister perhaps only realised too late exactly what his decision means. The Greens initial furious response labelled him “weak and thoroughly hopeless” and said he could “no longer be trusted”. 

And driving home the point, now former minister Patrick Harvie asked at FMQs: “Who does the first minister think he has pleased most today – Douglas Ross, Fergus Ewing or Alex Salmond? And more to the point, which of them does he think he can rely on for a majority in parliament now?” 

It was a clear warning shot. 

Yousaf, during both his press conference this morning and in response to that question, is keen to offer an olive branch to the party. 

He has insisted the Bute House Agreement has achieved a great deal, that this is a “natural conclusion”, and the two parties will continue to work together going forward, “issue by issue”. He pointed to Gillian Mackay’s buffer zone bill to be debated in parliament next week as one such example. 

But will that olive branch be enough to sooth the burning rage of his former partners? And if not, will he at least manage to rebuild bridges with Regan to at least scrape past a vote of no confidence? 

We won’t have to wait long to find out. 

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