First Minister Humza Yousaf: SNP-Green agreement ‘worth its weight in gold’
The First Minister has defended continuing the SNP-Green deal, saying having a parliamentary majority was “worth its weight in gold”.
Humza Yousaf – who took over as first minister from Nicola Sturgeon in March – had pledged during the SNP leadership campaign to continue the Bute House agreement.
That agreement saw Green ministers enter government for the first time and provided the Scottish Government with a majority, which the SNP had just fallen shy of getting on its own after the 2021 election.
In an exclusive interview with Holyrood, Yousaf said the reasons he had opted to continue the deal was because the SNP membership had voted “overwhelmingly” for it and to provide a “stable government”.
He said: “For me, having stable government, having that majority to be able to pursue your legislative agenda, to get your budgets through, is a good style of politics.
“The Greens will push us hard on a number of issues, and they’ll have to compromise on issues, it involves us having to compromise, and that’s not a bad way at all of doing politics. But for me as first minister, having that majority in the chamber is worth its weight in gold.”
The first minister said recent years had seen politics “more toxic than I’ve ever known” and it was up to parliamentarians to “do everything we can to try to take some of the toxicity out of” debates such as that around the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.
The Scottish Government last month confirmed it would challenge the UK Government’s block on that legislation. The bill aims to introduce a system of self-identification for obtaining a gender recognition certificate, which legally changes a person’s gender.
Opponents of the bill had warned the move would put single-sex spaces, such as women’s prisons, at risk. A month after the bill passed, Isla Bryson was initially placed in a women’s jail before public outcry saw the rapist moved to the male estate.
Yousaf said the case had “nothing to do with the GRR bill” because it “hasn’t even had royal assent”.
But he previously said Bryson, previously known as Adam Graham, was “at it” when asked whether the transgender rapist was trying to take advantage of the system.
Yousaf told Holyrood: “Isla Bryson was trying to manipulate the system for their own ends.
“What most people will say is that 99 per cent of people that are trans, certainly 99 per cent of trans women, don’t do that, they don’t try to manipulate the system for their own ends. So, the question is, do you roll back the rights that they have because one individual is completely at it?
“And frankly, the system should not have been allowed to be manipulated in that way; Isla Bryson should never have ended up in Cornton Vale even when the assessment initially was going on, and hence, why the guidance has been updated.”
Yousaf also spoke about his journey into politics, his family, and the toll the recent problems facing the SNP had had on him personally in the wide-ranging interview with editor Mandy Rhodes.
He revealed that after he became first minister, several people from his grandad’s hometown in Pakistan had tried to get in touch.
He said: “One of the really lovely things that happened when I got elected first minister was that virtually every single person in my grandad’s hometown in Pakistan must have tried to call me. I have no idea how they got my number… This is a small town and people were just phoning me constantly and I was having to speak to as many of them as I could.”
And on the SNP’s internal problems, he insisted the party was “not down and out” but he was having to constantly remind himself he was “only in control of what I’m in control of”.
He added: “I’m not in control of what happens next in terms of the police investigation; I have no more knowledge of that than you do around what will be the next steps.
“What I am in control of, though, from a party perspective, is the governance we’ve got in place. What can we do around transparency? What can we do about our financial oversight? How I communicate to the public that this is a party you can trust. And how I communicate to our members that we’re not down and out, far from it.”
Read the exclusive interview with the First Minister in the latest issue of Holyrood magazine.