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by Louise Wilson
29 March 2023
Sketch: King Humza fights the three-headed dragon Aldouganas

Humza Yousaf became the SNP leader on Monday

Sketch: King Humza fights the three-headed dragon Aldouganas

The people of Scotland are incredibly lucky. For in this year of our lord 2023, we get to witness the coronation of two kings. One, of course, is King Charles III.

The other is King of the North, chosen by the people of Scotland (26,032 of them, at least) to lead them onward and upward (or maybe downward, time will tell). All hail King Humza, Keeper of the Scottish Seal, protector of the land, defender of his own record.

But we Scots are a headstrong people and we couldn’t let someone take the throne without challenge. And so to prove he has the ability, he had to face off a dragon with three heads, commonly known as Aldouganas.

King Humza and his foe stand in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament, not facing one another (as Lorna Slater, one of the King’s faithful servants helpfully points out) but arranged in a horseshoe, eyes locked and ready for battle. Their supporters line up behind their respective champion.

Aldouganas takes the first turn. The first head, known as Alex Cole-Hamilton, speaks. He is challenging for leadership of the country because “this is a democracy”, he explains. And as leader of the party with just four MSPs, he feels democratically-validated to be First Minister. He may have won his seat with the greatest share of votes of any constituency in Scottish Parliament history – as he frequently likes to boast – but it appears his team is hiding the rest of Scotland’s results from him. He hasn’t seemed to notice his is the smallest party in the room.

Neil Gray, King Humza’s right hand knight, is smirking throughout the speech. He is feeling confident his man will beat the first dragon’s head. And with good reason, as Cole-Hamilton – in a moment of rare self-reflection – admits he probably won’t win today. “Here, here,” jeer the King’s supporters. And so the first head is shorn from the body of Aldouganas.

The second head takes a different tactic. Douglas Ross wants to mock his opponent into submission. The SNP has been “consumed” by its desire for Scottish independence, he says, suggesting the Scottish Government has “abdicated responsibility” and King Humza, as part of that government, will only ever be a “part-time” first minister. The King’s supporters could barely contain themselves with glee. Ross couldn’t have handed them a better gift had it arrived on a silver plate. The irony, they chortled, as the man who is an MP, an MSP, leader of a party and a linesman claiming someone else was a part-time anything!

Ross, undeterred, continues his attempts to embarrass the new King. Yousaf had made a “shady backroom deal” with the Greens to keep the SNP in government, he suggested. You know, that shady deal called the Bute House Agreement. That is publicly available to anyone on the Scottish Government website.

There are many shady caves in this government that this King would rather you didn’t explore, but his relationship with the Greens is not one of them. In trying to make a joke of the King, all Ross succeeded in doing was making a jester of himself. And so another head fell at King Yousaf’s feet.

Aldouganas’s final head, the opposition’s final hope, is Anas Sarwar. The self-appointed grown-up in the room is not angry. He’s disappointed. Disappointed that Yousaf will not call an election. The King is a “democracy denier,” Sarwar boldly claims. This head of the dragon will defeat his opponent with logic and facts. Yousaf has no mandate to be FM, Sarwar says. Other than that given to him by party members (and shortly the parliament), which is, as it happens, totally legitimate because we live in a parliamentary democracy. And so the third head, too, withers away with a warning from King Humza that he has Sarwar’s father on speed dial. Enough to strike the fear in anyone’s heart.

But fear not. The self-appointed adult may have fallen short of stopping King Humza, but Yousaf is being closely watched by his parents. His actual parents look on from the gallery. His political parents – Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney – watch closely from the back row.

And it appears they don’t think wee Humza is ready quite. He still needs his training wheels, a chaperone. His right-hand woman, at least for the start of his premiership, will be mammy’s best friend, Shona Robison. A lady-much-in-waiting.

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