Humza Yousaf’s house is crumbling around him

First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf during First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood
First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf during First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood

It has often been observed that for the Scottish Greens, despite the party’s name, trans issues, rather than the environment, seem to take precedence in its political priorities.

Those who doubted the truth of this need only watch the responses by the Greens’ co-leader, Patrick Harvie, first to the SNP government’s announcement that it was abandoning a key net zero target, and then to the publication of Dr Hilary Cass’s review of gender care for young people in England.

On the first issue, Harvie’s response appeared to be little more than a shrug of the shoulders. But on the second issue, the minister for zero carbon buildings, active travel and tenants’ rights (or “everything else”, as one unkind journalist suggested when he was appointed) could barely contain his anger at Dr Cass’s conclusions. He refused even to accept that the report was a valid scientific piece of research on the dubious basis that he’d read “far too many criticisms of it” to be able to do so.

Ironically, at the weekend, Dr Cass herself blasted exactly the kind of disinformation about her report to which Minister Harvie, in his naivete and ideological attachments, seems to have fallen victim. Harvie even sought to exonerate the Scottish government itself from the decision by Scotland’s only gender health care clinic, the Sandyford, to halt its use of puberty-blockers for under-18s, pointing out that this was a decision taken by “clinicians”, perhaps hoping that viewers would conclude that such judgments should be taken by politicians rather than doctors.

Meanwhile, Harvie’s own party members were taking a rather less relaxed view of his government’s decision to abandon a key net zero target, and have demanded a vote on whether the so-called Bute House Agreement committing the Greens to supporting the SNP in return for a couple of junior ministerial jobs should come to an end.

This is turning into a nightmare for First Minister Humza Yousaf, who has staked his entire reputation as SNP leader on holding the SNP-Green alliance together. Harvie’s dismal performance in defence of trans ideology against the onslaught of a respected clinician presenting inconvenient facts should have resulted in his dismissal by Yousaf that same evening.

But this is Scotland, so of course this sort of behaviour is tolerated. The threat to Yousaf is that the Greens themselves vote to end the agreement, leaving him looking like an abandoned spouse pleading for his wife to come back while promising to change. Far better, surely, for him to take the responsibilities of leadership seriously and announce, unilaterally, that the agreement no longer works for the benefit of the people of Scotland and to challenge the Scottish Greens to vote against his government in a vote of confidence.

Even were Yousaf to lose such a vote, his party would likely remain in office, since a two-thirds majority of MSPs is needed to spark an early election. And he would at least no longer have to pay costly lip service to the various expensive and impractical policies with which the Greens have burdened the administration in the last three years.

Yet the First Minister continues to stare at the headlights of the oncoming train as if he is powerless to do anything about it. Troubles bubble around him – the police investigation into his party’s finances, policy failures on schools and hospitals, his predecessor’s doomed attempts to enforce trans ideology on Scotland via the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, the hated Hate Crime Act, and now the unwelcome dose of realism imposed by the Cass Review.

The Scottish Greens have proved themselves to be extremist activists parachuted into government jobs. Unless he ditches them himself, Humza Yousaf condemns his own party to share that reputation.