Humza Yousaf quits as Scotland’s first minister

Humza Yousaf announces his resignation at Bute House in Edinburgh on Monday © POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Humza Yousaf announces his resignation at Bute House in Edinburgh on Monday © POOL/AFP via Getty Images

By: Financial Times

Humza Yousaf has said he will resign as Scotland’s first minister, forcing his Scottish National party into a leadership contest ahead of the UK general election expected this year.

At a press conference at Bute House in Edinburgh, Yousaf said he would step down once a successor had been appointed. The announcement on Monday came ahead of a pair of no-confidence votes.

“I am not willing to trade my values and principles, or do deals with whomever, simply for retaining power,” he said.

“I‘ve concluded that repairing [the SNP’s] relationship across the political divide can only be done with someone else at the helm,” he added.

Yousaf’s downfall comes little more than a year since he took power as Scotland’s first ethnic minority first minister and the UK’s first Muslim leader of a major political party.

His successor will have to lead the party into the UK general election, in which the Labour Party is hoping to retake power in Westminster by recovering a slew of Scottish seats from the SNP.

The first minister’s departure from office is the latest in a series of headaches for the nationalist party, which has governed in Holyrood for 17 years and is under a police investigation over its finances.

Last week the 39-year-old tore up a power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Greens in a bid to reset his leadership by moving towards the centre ground of Scottish politics with a minority government. The SNP has 63 Holyrood seats, just short of the 65 needed for a majority.

But after Yousaf collapsed the coalition, the Scottish Conservatives lodged a vote of no confidence in him as first minister and Scottish Labour filed a no-confidence motion in the government.

“The SNP leader has quit rather than face a humiliating defeat,” said Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, on Monday ahead of the press conference.

Yousaf needed to persuade one opposition member of the Scottish parliament to vote for him and his government in no-confidence motions to secure his position.

Senior SNP figures had been holding talks with the Scottish Greens, Yousaf’s erstwhile coalition partners, but they remained steadfast in their opposition to his leadership.

Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said Yousaf was “right to resign” but opened the door to working with a successor “who shares our progressive values”.

“The SNP is still the largest party in parliament by some distance, and has the right to form a minority government,” Harvie said.

“The Scottish Greens have a long track record of working constructively from opposition and will do so with any first minister who shares our progressive values and who can secure our confidence,” he added.

SNP figures said frontrunners to replace Yousaf would include Kate Forbes, who came second to Yousaf in the leadership contest last year; John Swinney, former deputy first minister who could assume a caretaker role; and Neil Gray, an ally of Yousaf.

Forbes, an effective former minister and savvy parliamentarian, would struggle to garner Green support, said Harvie, who questioned her social conservative views and criticism of the progressive taxation policies pursued by the SNP-Green coalition.

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