Nicola Sturgeon allies 'plotted to oust Humza Yousaf' over reports of meeting with Alba MSP

Humza Yousaf announced his intention to stand down as Scotland's First Minister today
Humza Yousaf announced his intention to stand down as Scotland's First Minister today -Credit:Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon was in talks with senior SNP ministers as Humza Yousaf was forced out of his job by those who feared Alex Salmond could seize back control of the SNP.

Even before the First Minister had taken the decision to resign, power brokers within the party were lining John Swinney up to take over.

And senior sources have confirmed Yousaf’s fate was sealed by Sturgeon loyalists who were thrown into a blind panic after it emerged he was arranging to meet with Alba’s Ash Regan.

The Sunday Mail can reveal that

- plans were hatched three days before the FM quit to replace him with Swinney

- Ex FM Nicola Sturgeon called the Greens in a bid to convince them to drop their support for a no confidence motion and was talking to other senior SNP figures during the crisis.

- SNP ministers cheered and thumped the table when the Greens were sacked from government.

-Westminster leader Stephen Flynn lobbied for the Greens to be jettisoned and is keen to be SNP leader if lose his seat in the House of Commons.

Humza Yousaf announced his intention to stand down as Scotland's First Minister
Humza announced his intention to stand down as Scotland's First Minister last week -Credit:Getty Images

Robin McAlpine, of the Common Weal think tank, said: “The thing that killed him off quite clearly was that the establishment machine got a sniff that he was showing insufficient hatred towards Alba and they knifed him.

“It’s quite remarkable that his own staff chopped his head off through briefing. I can’t think of an occasion where the coup was carried out by the hired help.

“The machinery of the SNP, which appears now to be the SNP, seems to be able to wake up one morning and say lets replace leader. To say that is bad for democracy is an understatement.”

A senior government source said: “The question you need to ask is who is in control of the SNP if its not the leader of the party and the answer is Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney, Angus Robertson, Ian Blackford, Liz Lloyd and a small but influential group bonded by their absolute antipathy towards Alex Salmond and determination to block him gaining any influence.

“Swinney has been talking about unity but the truth is that for personal reasons these people will never find common ground with the Salmond wing of the party which wants to drop gender based identity politics and the Green Party, and return to sharp focus on the economy, public services and independence.”

“Yousaf had to go and Kate Forbes also had to be stopped because she would never have been able to work with the Greens and so would also have been likely to team up with Regan, of whom she is a friend.

“Swinney was seen as the only candidate to keep her out and take over the reigns for a couple of years, take the general election hit, and then let a proper leadership race take place further down the line.

Thursday April 25

Humza Yousaf calls a 10am press conference confirming he had ended the Bute House Agreement with the Green party after a car crash interview where co-leader Harvie had refused to accept The Cass Report into gender reform.

Two hours earlier the Greens, summoned to the FM’s offical residence, faced total humiliation when their former SNP colleagues cheered, applauded and thumped the table after the FM axed them.

A source told the Sunday Mail: “There was a decision before the full cabinet that the Bute House Agreement was to be terminated. “Patrick and Lorna then went into the cabinet meeting where they were handed letters from Humza and the rest of the cabinet members in the SNP were thumping the table and cheering.

“These are people who were relying on our support less than 24 hours before. To then be cheered out of Bute House by the rest of the cabinet and marched straight in front of the press - is it any wonder they were so angry about what happened?”

Lorna Slater calls it “a spectacular breach of trust”.

Friday April 26

The FM tells the Greens he understands their anger and urges them not to back a Tory vote of no confidence. He’s back at home in Dundee and announces £80million for affordable housing in Scotland. Scottish Labour table a vote of no confidence in his government.

Alex Salmond’s Alba party MSP Ash Regan writes to him and tells him: “My door is open.”

A SNP source said that Humza realised that he’d made a fatal error and considering resigning but was talked out of it by pregnant wife Nadia. The friend said: “At that point, he thought he could fight on.”

Ex-FM Nicola Sturgeon is understood to to have approached the Greens to try and get them to change their minds but failed. Tentative plans were then discussed about replacing Humza with Swinney should Humza be forced out.

Saturday April 27


Yousaf writes to leaders of the other parties to meet with him in a bid to find “common ground” ahead of the vote of no confidence. He is dismissed by Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar, the Tories Douglas Ross and the Lib Dem’s Alex Cole Hamilton.

Humza’s team confirms to the Sunday Mail that lines of communication have been opened between him and Ash Regan in a bid to secure her vote in a bid to survive.

Regan tells us that she wants him to prioritise independence, Grangemouth and safeguarding women and children. But behind the scenes, senior figures were becoming increasingly furious at the prospect of Alex Salmond’s reemergence


Alba Party leader Alex Salmond takes part in a March for Independence from Kelvingrove Park to Glasgow Green.
John Swinney announces his intention to run for the leadership.

Sunday April 28

The First Minister believed an agreement with Regan could still save him, but the Sunday Mail’s front page which declared “Humza: I’ll work with Salmond” sent SNP officials into meltdown.

The plan to install Swinney as leader of the SNP and First Minister was enacted. Senior sources began briefing newspapers and broadcasters that Humza was resigning and Swinney was to take over. They were also told about a Resolution Foundation thinktank event in London the following day where Swinney was set to speak..

A source said: “At least two members of the government were determined at all costs not to allow a situation to develop which could see the SNP relying on Alba’s support.As much as Humza wanted to cast this as a deal with Regan and not Salmond, the undeniable reality is that Salmond is the leader of the party.

“Very senior Sturgeon allies in the government and party made it clear that a deal with Alba could not go ahead under any circumstances.

“If he had been stronger Humza would have told them where to go, but by Sunday night he was no longer in control of his own destiny.’

Monday April 29

Regan texts the FM asking him if they are meeting. The FM calls her and said her requests to give him her support are “very reasonable”.

But within a few hours, Humza appears in Bute House to resign.

Salmond later tells reporters: “The reason he didn’t do a deal with Alba is because there are forces within his own party who stopped him doing it – let’s call them the old guard.”

Within hours MSPs and MPs including Stephen Flynn and Màiri McAllan were backing Swinney despite the fact he had not even announced he would stand. He tells reporters he is considering it.

A SNP source said : “It is incredibly stressful and disorientating to be the person at the centre of a political bun-fight and you need the people around you to be fighting your corner. Humza is going to wake up a few days from now and begin to wonder whether that was the case.”

Tuesday April 30

Tory leader Douglas Ross announces he was withdrawing his party’s planned vote of no confidence in Humza Yousaf, saying “job done” on their plans to oust the First Minister.

Labour then faced pressure from the Greens and SNP to drop their motion of no confidence in the government as a whole.

Wednesday May 1

The Scottish Labour vote of no confidence in the government goes ahead but fails.

Kate Forbes reveals she is still considering standing as leader.

Sturgeon makes an appearance at Holyrood and denies “working behind the scenes” of the leadership contest. She says: “I have spent almost my entire life in the thick of political drama and I’m actually quite enjoying not being in the thick of political drama any more."

A source close to Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Greens made their position on the vote of no confidence clear on the day the Bute House Agreement ended. That doesn’t mean constructive relationships can’t continue. Nicola talks to colleagues and former colleagues regularly - there is nothing surprising in that.”

A SNP spokesperson said: “Humza Yousaf has set out in straight in terms what led to his decision to stand down as First Minister and SNP leader which included refusing to trade his values and principles, simply to retain power.”

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