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by Staff Reporter
29 April 2024
Humza Yousaf quits as first minister

The first minister faced a vote of no confidence later this week | Alamy

Humza Yousaf quits as first minister

Humza Yousaf has announced his decision to quit as Scotland's first minister after resigning as leader of the SNP.

The first minister faced a no confidence vote in his leadership later this week following his decision to end the Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens.

Yousaf made the announcement in a speech at Bute House, just days after telling reporters he would fight on as first minister. 

He said: “While a route through this week’s motion of no confidence was absolutely possible, I am not willing to trade my values and principles or do deals with whoever simply for retaining power.

“Therefore after spending the weekend reflecting on what’s best for my party, the government and for the country I lead, I have concluded that repairing our relationship across the political divide can only be done with someone else at the helm. I have, therefore, informed the SNP’s national secretary of my intention to stand down as party leader and ask that she commences a leadership contest for my replacement as soon as possible.

“In order to ensure a smooth and orderly transition, it is my intention to continue as first minister until my successor has been elected.”

Yousaf said he continued to believe that ending the Bute House Agreement had been the right thing to do but admitted he had “underestimated the level of hurt and upset I have caused Green colleagues”.

The Scottish Conservatives said the first minister had quit rather than face a “humiliating defeat”.

Greens leader Patrick Harvie said: “It is regrettable that it has ended this way, it didn’t need to.”

A former justice secretary and health secretary, Yousaf became first minister last year after defeating Kate Forbes and Ash Regan for the SNP leadership. The contest followed the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon.

Despite vowing to continue his predecessor’s agenda, Yousaf’s government was forced to drop plans for reform of the Gender Recognition Act after the legislation was blocked by the UK Government. It also put off plans for a deposit return scheme and scrapped plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs). Earlier this month it was confirmed the government would ditch a key 2030 climate pledge.

But it was Yousaf’s decision to end the power-sharing deal with the Greens which sparked a furious reaction from his party’s erstwhile partners in government and ultimately led to his downfall.

That decision was followed by a motion of no confidence put forward by the Scottish Tories, which all the other main parties including the Greens said they would support.

A further motion of no confidence in the government as a whole, lodged by Labour, would lead to a general election if successful.

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross said: “The Scottish Conservatives have delivered on our promise to be a strong opposition to Humza Yousaf and the SNP. 

“We have forced Humza Yousaf out of office for repeatedly failing Scotland. Faced with our Vote of No Confidence, the SNP leader has quit rather than face a humiliating defeat.

“As he leaves office, on a personal level, I wish Humza Yousaf and his family well. 

“But we cannot forgive the damage he did to families and households across Scotland by raising taxes, letting NHS waiting lists spiral and attacking free speech. 

“The next first minister must abandon the nationalist obsession with independence and focus solely on Scotland's top priorities, such as creating jobs and improving our ailing public services.

“Scottish people cannot afford another SNP First Minister focused solely on separating Scotland.

“Humza Yousaf is gone but the SNP remains – and the power to change that is in the hands of Scotland’s voters. Now that we have forced Humza Yousaf out of office, we are asking voters to help us beat the SNP in seats up and down Scotland at the next General Election.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “For Scottish Labour, this has never been about one person – this is about 17 years of SNP failure.

“The fact is this is a crisis of the SNP’s making and it appears they will yet again put party before country while Scots are being failed every day.

“Scotland faces the biggest challenges since devolution but it now has a dysfunctional, chaotic and divided SNP government. All this at a time when our country needs strong leadership to get us through the twin challenges of the economic crisis and the crisis in our NHS.

“The SNP are a divided party which is out of ideas and incapable of rising to the challenges Scotland faces. They cannot impose another unelected first minister on Scotland in a backroom deal – the people of Scotland should decide who leads our country.

“There must be an election – it’s time for change and Scottish Labour is ready to deliver it.”

The Greens' Patrick Harvie said: “Humza Yousaf is right to resign. His position was no longer tenable after he broke the bonds of trust with the Scottish Greens and with everyone who wanted a stable, progressive, pro-independence government. 

“It is regrettable that it has ended this way, it didn’t need to. We draw no satisfaction or pleasure from this. But the Scottish Greens could no longer have confidence in Humza Yousaf after he chose to unilaterally end the Bute House Agreement. 

“In doing so he let down the large majority of Scottish Green and SNP members who approved the agreement who wanted it to work.” 

A Downing Street spokesperson told reporters ahead of Yousaf's resignation speech that the UK Government would work with a new leader “to the same end” of “working together to deliver for people in Scotland”, insisting that the prime minister would want to focus on “real issues that matter to people” rather than the “ins and outs of politics”.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack added: “It was the right thing for the first minister to resign. Humza Yousaf’s leadership has lurched from crisis to crisis from the very start, and he could not command the confidence of the Scottish Parliament. Scotland now needs a stable, functioning Scottish Government focused on the issues that matter most to people - fixing public services and growing the economy.”

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