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by Staff Reporter
15 October 2023
Humza Yousaf says mindfulness and counselling have helped with demands of being first minister

Photo by Anna Moffat

Humza Yousaf says mindfulness and counselling have helped with demands of being first minister

Humza Yousaf has said practising mindfulness and attending counselling have helped him cope with the demands of being first minister.

In an exclusive interview with Holyrood, Yousaf described seeking help with his mental health as “one of the best decisions I ever made”.

And he said he wanted to “continue counselling as first minister”.

The MSP revealed at an Edinburgh Fringe event over the summer that he had sought support during his time as transport minister.

At that time, in 2016, he was also dealing with the break-up of his marriage.

Speaking to Holyrood, Yousaf said he was “not sure I could have continued as a minister without having that counselling”.

And he added that he continues to “practise mindfulness” using app Headspace – one of the methods recommended to him by his counsellor.

Asked about how he deals with the demands of the top job, Yousaf said: “I definitely think counselling has given me resilience. I was just talking to my wife, actually, last week about making sure I continue counselling as first minister.

“I don’t need to do it weekly as I was doing in the past, but people shouldn’t wait until a crisis moment to access counselling.

“I haven’t done it yet, but I was just mentioning to my wife that it would be a good thing for me to do.”

The interview took place ahead of the SNP’s autumn conference in Aberdeen, Yousaf’s first since becoming first minister and leader of the party.

It follows a bruising by-election defeat in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, but Yousaf said the party had “expected to lose and expected the defeat to be considerable”.

Asked why he opted to put himself at the centre of that campaign given the risk of losing the seat, he said: “You lead from the front. I don’t believe in doing anything other than that. I made a virtue of being not just the first minister but the first activist. I don’t shy away. If I only turned up at the elections or by-elections I thought I was going to win, that wouldn’t be true leadership.”

At conference the SNP membership will debate its independence strategy for the first time in several years.

Yousaf has tabled a motion alongside Westminster leader Stephen Flynn that says the SNP would “begin immediate negotiations” for independence should it win the “most seats” in Scotland at the general election.

Reports suggest the leadership will get behind an amendment changing the wording to “majority of” seats.

Yousaf said: “That doesn’t mean you automatically begin negotiations on the terms of independence, it means you begin negotiations with the UK Government of how to give that democratic effect.”

He added: “I’m not somehow pretending the UK Government are going to roll over, regardless of what the result is. That’s why I have to lead the party to make sure we have a significant result – that we win that election and that we win it handsomely.”

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