No need for election after new FM chosen, says Yousaf
SNP leadership candidate Humza Yousaf has said there should not be an election after the new first minister is appointed.
His party were among the voices calling for a general election last year during the political turmoil involving three different people serving as prime minister.
But asked by the PA news agency if the new first minister – to be chosen by SNP members – should put themselves to the people, Mr Yousaf said it was not necessary because MSPs must fill the post.
The Health Secretary – currently battling it out with Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and former community safety minister Ash Regan – also said he did not support calls for SNP chief executive, and Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell to step aside, while also rejecting claims he was the continuity candidate in the race.
Asked about putting his leadership to the people of Scotland, if he were to be elected, Mr Yousaf said: “The difference, of course, is there would be a vote in the Holyrood chamber for whoever the candidate is for the next first minister.
“The opposition will put their candidate forward, we’ll put our candidate forward and we’ll see who ends up getting selected as first minister. So I don’t think there’s a need for another Holyrood election beyond the current timetable.”
Mr Yousaf has been outspoken in his support for continuing the powersharing agreement between his party and the Scottish Greens, all but ensuring his selection as first minister if elected SNP leader.
His opponents, however, have been less supportive of the deal.
But, despite the likelihood of Green endorsement, the Health Secretary said he had “no plans” to push for an election.
Today I've unveiled plans to substantially increase investment in Scotland's renewables and boost our green energy output fivefold to help slash soaring energy bills.
Scotland is an energy rich country. Our citizens should not be living in fuel poverty.#HumzaForScotland pic.twitter.com/j8ARVZaWls
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) February 27, 2023
“I don’t think that would be required, I don’t think that would be necessary,” he said.
His leadership rival Ms Regan has been a frequent critic of the SNP hierarchy in recent months and said having a party leader who is married to the chief executive is “inappropriate” and represents a “conflict of interest” for Mr Murrell – who is ultimately in charge of the leadership contest.
Asked if he shared that view, Mr Yousaf said he believes there needs to be “internal party reform”, but that he did not believe the chief executive should stand aside.
“I’m a big believer in internal party reform at headquarters, but I don’t like to make these things personal,” he said.
“I don’t know why somebody would demand getting rid of somebody who’s been the chief executive of the party, who’s won countless elections in the last few years.”
Mr Yousaf rejected descriptions of him as a continuity candidate.
But he added: “I find it an unusual argument that people call me a continuity candidate, because if it means continuing Nicola Sturgeon’s record of election wins, if it means continuing on her legacy of increasing support for independence at higher levels than we’ve ever seen before, if it means continuing a socially progressive agenda, then I don’t think these are bad things to continue.
“All of these things will help us to gain our independence.”
In his biggest policy pledge to date Mr Yousaf said he would seek to increase funding available to the Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB) from £2 billion over the next decade to £10 billion by allowing the bank to borrow money which would then be invested in renewable projects.
Such a move, he said, would help to increase green energy production by five times and total energy production by four times.
The UK Government would have to agree the necessary powers for the change, but Mr Yousaf said he would apply “maximum pressure” on Westminster.
But Scottish ministers have been pushing for increased borrowing powers for the Scottish Government for years with no success.
The difference in this situation, the candidate said, would be the pressure also coming from business.
“I hope the UK Government see sense in the fact that this could be a win-win for Scotland but also, of course, if we export that energy then there could be some real substantial progress for Scotland, not just for individuals and their household bills, but also for business,” he said.
“I hope they would see the common sense of what we’re asking for.”