Hate crime laws send Humza Yousaf’s popularity plunging

Humza Yousaf
Among all Scots, Mr Yousaf now has an approval rating of minus 32, putting him just three points ahead of Rishi Sunak - MICHAEL McGURK

Humza Yousaf’s popularity with Scottish voters has plummeted following the introduction of his new hate crime laws, a new poll has revealed.

Even among SNP voters, more people believe the First Minister is doing a bad job of running Scotland than those who think he is doing a good job, the survey by polling company Norstat showed.

It is the first such survey carried out since the introduction of the laws that Mr Yousaf steered through Holyrood as justice secretary and which came into force earlier this month.

The controversial legislation is widely seen to have been botched by the SNP government, with an appeal to the public to report all instances of “hate” leading to more than 7,000 reports in the first week.

Fewer than four per cent of the reports were assessed as actual crimes.

The findings showed that among all Scots, Mr Yousaf now has an approval rating of minus 32, putting him just three points ahead of Rishi Sunak. It amounts to a 15-point drop for Mr Yousaf since the previous survey carried out in January.

Even among those who voted SNP at the last general election, just 29 per cent believe Mr Yousaf is doing a good job, compared with 36 per cent who think he has been poor in office.

This resulted in a score of minus seven among SNP voters, down from plus 14 in January.

Sir John Curtice, the leading pollster, told The Sunday Times that the results showed that the First Minister is “deeply and increasingly unpopular”.

He added: “However, do the SNP have any option other than to make the best they can of Mr Yousaf’s leadership?”

Mr Yousaf has endured a troubled tenure as First Minister since he succeeded Nicola Sturgeon in March last year.

Polls suggest Labour has overtaken the SNP in Scotland in voting intentions for the general election.

A recent seat-by-seat poll by YouGov predicted that Labour was on course to win 28 Scottish seats, compared with one in 2019, while the SNP’s tally would fall from 48 to 19.

Such a disastrous result, should it be replicated in the general election, would inevitably lead to calls for Mr Yousaf to stand down.

There are also fears that the situation could become far worse for the SNP, should a long-awaited police investigation into party finances, which saw Nicola Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell arrested, result in any criminal charges.

Ms Sturgeon has strongly denied wrongdoing while Mr Murrell, the former SNP chief executive, has not commented publicly.

In terms of voting intention, Labour and the SNP were tied on 32 per cent, though this would result in Labour winning 28 Westminster seats to the SNP’s 18, an analysis by Sir John found.

It is the lowest score the nationalists have scored in a Norstat poll since the independence referendum almost a decade ago.

The SNP’s election strategy has so far focussed on claiming backing the nationalists is the best way to make Scotland “Tory free”.

The tactic has delighted Conservative figures, who believe it helps them appeal to unionists, as well as Labour strategists who see it as lacking credibility given they are clearly the largest threat to the SNP.

In a possible shift, Mr Yousaf is to attack Labour this week in a speech at the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Glasgow.

He is set to claim that the election is a “choice of values” and attack Sir Keir Starmer’s positions on public spending, workers’ rights and nuclear weapons.

Norstat interviewed 1,086 people aged 16 or older in Scotland from April 9 to 12.