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by Louise Wilson
23 February 2023
Douglas Ross: ‘Worst health secretary’ Humza Yousaf is ‘failing upwards’

Douglas Ross: ‘Worst health secretary’ Humza Yousaf is ‘failing upwards’

Humza Yousaf is being allowed to “fail upwards” if he becomes the next first minister of Scotland, Douglas Ross has said.

The Scottish Tory leader dubbed Yousaf the “worst health secretary since devolution”, adding: “Every part of Scotland’s NHS is in crisis because of Humza Yousaf”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon defended her health secretary and her government’s record on the NHS, pointing to “record” funding and staffing levels.

Labour’s Anas Sarwar also criticised Yousaf, asking whether “the man responsible for failing Scotland’s NHS should be responsible for our country”.

The exchange at FMQs – the first session since Sturgeon announced her resignation last week – follows the publication of a critical Audit Scotland report.

It concluded key NHS recruitment targets were unlikely to be met and urged the government to clearly set out how long it would take the health service to recover from the pandemic.

Yousaf is considered the frontrunner to succeed Sturgeon, ahead of finance secretary Kate Forbes and former justice minister Ash Regan.

Prior to become health secretary in 2021, Yousaf was justice secretary and transport minister.

Ross said: “Eight years ago a failed SNP health secretary became first minister. Now history looks like it’s repeating itself. Why would anybody risk Scotland’s future by giving a man with Humza Yousaf’s record more power?”

The First Minister suggested Ross was “sounding pretty scared of Humza Yousaf, as I’m sure he will be scared of whoever is elected as SNP leader.”

Sturgeon has declined to back any candidate in the race to replace her.

Sarwar accused Sturgeon’s government of taking its “eye off the ball” on the NHS, adding: “The [Audit Scotland] report is damning and it is clear: Humza Yousaf has failed. He published a recovery plan that was more about spin than substance and, as a result, patient outcomes are getting worse, staff are burnt out and the NHS is going backwards.”

The First Minister said while she accepted the report’s conclusions, Scotland was “not alone in facing these issues”. “This is something that is going to take time to properly recover the NHS from the pandemic,” she added.

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