Inside story on why Humza Yousaf ripped up agreement with Scottish Greens

This is the moment that Patrick Harvie sealed his party’s fate and set in motion a chain of events that would see the Greens kicked out of government and Humza Yousaf fighting for his job.

The Sunday Mail can reveal that just hours after the car crash BBC interview where he trashed Dr Hilary Cass’ report into gender identity services, Alba MSP Ash Regan’s vote of no confidence in Harvie was destabilising the First Minister’s position.

Humza Yousaf discovered she had backing from a number of SNP backbenchers and with Westminster leader Stephen Flynn heading to Edinburgh for urgent talks, he was forced to act to save his political life.

A senior SNP source said: “Harvie is clearly raging at what he believes has been a betrayal of his party by Yousaf but the truth is that he did this to himself with his completely unacceptable comments on the Cass report.

“Ash Regan’s motion of no confidence was going to get significant support including from a sizable rebellion of SNP MSPs, it was going to lead to a vote in parliament and Humza’s position if he continued to support Harvie and the Greens deal would have become untenable.

“The FM had absolutely no choice but to take steps to end the Bute House agreement, it was just a matter of how he did it.

“By sacking the Greens in the most humiliating manner possible he has clearly enraged Harvie so much that he now wants to destroy the First Minister at all costs.

“A smarter strategy could have been to put the Bute House Agreement to an SNP vote in the same way that the Greens were preparing to vote on it, but one way or another it was dead in the water.”

Yousaf was relaxing with his family last Sunday having faced one of the most difficult weeks since becoming Scotland’s First Minister.

The former chief executive of his party, Peter Murrell, had been arrested and charged with embezzling party funds; he was forced to admit his government had hugely over-promised on climate targets; and his junior government partners were planning a vote on the future of their landmark powersharing agreement.

At a meeting of the SNP’s ruling body on the Saturday he told senior figures he wanted to keep the Bute House Agreement and did not want to give SNP members a vote on the deal.

A source at that meeting said: “A number of us wanted to put it to a vote of our own membership. Humza said ‘No, I’m not considering that, I’m fully committed to the Greens and asking the question would open us up to criticism and make it a story.’

“He was really in support of the cooperation agreement which is why this was all the more baffling for everyone.”

MSP Ash Regan could hold a vote crucial to Mr Yousaf’s future
Humza Yousaf confirmed he had terminated the Bute House Agreement.

But less than 24 hours after Yousaf’s assurances to colleagues, Harvie refused to back world leading paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass’s report where she found there was remarkably weak evidence to support puberty treatment for children. He told the Sunday Show, the report had “clearly been politicised” and suggested that there was “far too many criticisms of the report to be able to say” that he agreed with its findings.

Women’s rights campaigner Regan, the sole MSP in the Alex Salmond’s Alba party, had resigned from SNP frontbench last year over the Gender Recognition Reform bill and Self ID. She accused Harvie of “siding with ideology over evidence” by refusing to accept the report’s recommendations which urged extreme caution over puberty blocking drugs for gender questioning children.

The MSP tabled a motion of no confidence in Harvie the following day. On Tuesday Yousaf was praising the Green agreement as “worth its weight in gold” but by Wednesday it became clear that SNP rebels were lining up to back their former colleague.

While Harvie and his Green colleagues were joking around in the Holyrood canteen, Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, was on his way to Edinburgh for crunch talks.

Flynn’s intervention, along with input from Yousaf’s chief special advisor Colin McAllister, was instrumental in convincing the FM to tear up the Bute House Agreement and take ruthless measures against Harvie and co-leader Lorna Slater.

Another SNP source said: “Flynn came into Holyrood for a coffee on Wednesday afternoon, which is what played a big part in the way Humza handled the Greens by marching them in to Bute House on Thursday morning.

“Flynn was no fan of the agreement and he made that very clear. He wanted shot of it because he thought it was seriously harming the SNP’s election chances at Westminster.

“He wants more investment in oil and gas and also wants action on the A96 - both of which the Greens are against.”

Yet Flynn’s intervention has sparked another rift in the party.

One SNP MSP said “Stephen Flynn’s involvement has also left quite a few of us with little time for the Westminster group.

“Look at it this way, Humza attacks Labour for taking orders from Westminster when he’s just done the exact same thing. It’s hypocritical and weak.”

A group meeting on Thursday night of SNP MSPs was described by one attendee as “not in the top 10 worst meetings we’ve had”.

While not all 63 MSPs turned up, those that did are in shock or concerned about Yousaf’s decisions.

Nicola Sturgeon’s ex sidekick and senior Nationalist John Swinney was trying to bring people together while Yousaf tried to convince his party the change in direction was a positive one.

While the First Minister might just survive this week’s vote of no confidence it now looks as though divisions in the party are running deep, many believe his days in Bute House are now numbered.

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