Yousaf accuses rivals of ‘game playing’ as he fights for his political future

Yousaf accuses rivals of ‘game playing’ as he fights for his political future

Scotland’s under-fire First Minister has accused his political rivals of “game playing”, as he insisted he will not resign and intends to win the two votes of no confidence he is now facing.

However, Humza Yousaf said that he would not rule out a Holyrood election, saying the SNP is prepared if that is required.

Mr Yousaf hit out after Scottish Labour followed in the footsteps of the Conservatives by tabling a motion of no confidence.

The dramatic developments followed Mr Yousaf terminating, with immediate effect, the powersharing deal the SNP had with the Scottish Greens at Holyrood for almost three years.

The move left his former junior coalition partners so angry they announced they would vote against the First Minister in a vote of no confidence in his leadership tabled by the Tories, which is expected to be debated and voted on next week.

Meanwhile Labour’s motion – which the Tories have confirmed they will also vote for – is one of no confidence in the Scottish Government as a whole.

If passed, that would force the entire Scottish Cabinet to resign – with MSPs then having 28 days to try to elect an alternative first minister, with the prospect of a snap Holyrood election if no candidate can gain sufficient support.

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said it is “pretty clear” Mr Yousaf will not be able to unite Holyrood – urging the SNP to consider finding a replacement for him.

Scottish Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater confirmed their party will vote against Humza Yousaf in a vote of no confidence (Lesley Martin/PA)
Scottish Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater confirmed their party will vote against Humza Yousaf in a vote of no confidence (Lesley Martin/PA)

But when asked if he will resign due to the pressure he is under, Mr Yousaf told the PA news agency: “When the vote comes I fully intend to win.”

The SNP leader, speaking on a visit to Dundee to announce more cash for affordable housing, insisted: “I fully intend to not just win that vote but I intend to fight to make sure that the Government continues to deliver on the priorities of the people. Like, for example, investing in affordable housing.”

He accused his rivals of “political game playing”, and added: “We’ll be getting on with the job, and when the vote comes I fully intend to win.”

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf said he has no plans to quit, as he fights for his political future (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Asked by Channel 4 News whether the SNP could afford a Holyrood election before a general election, Mr Yousaf said: “I’m intending to win the vote of no confidence, but I wouldn’t rule out a Holyrood election. We’re on an election footing – we’re prepared if that’s required.”

Amid the tight parliamentary arithmetic at Holyrood, the vote of Alba Party Holyrood leader – and former SNP MSP Ash Regan – could be crucial to Mr Yousaf’s political survival.

The First Minister said he will write to all the party leaders at Holyrood, inviting them to talks in an attempt to “make minority government work”.

Ms Regan, meanwhile, has written to the First Minister, making clear her demands if she is to support him.

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf was said to be in a ‘reflective’ mood after his decision to end a powersharing agreement sparked a no confidence motion in his leadership (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

The former SNP minister, who defected to Alex Salmond’s party, said she wants to see progress on Scottish independence and defending “the rights of women and children”.

She also suggested investment in the Grangemouth refinery – which is due to shut as early as next year and shift to an import and export terminal – would be another key demand.

But with Mr Yousaf under increasing pressure, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “It’s a matter now of when, not if, Humza Yousaf will step down as First Minister.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross told Times Radio he will back the Labour motion of no confidence in the Government as a whole “because I want to get rid of the Scottish Government”.

A spokesperson for the First Minister confirmed: “The FM is writing to Ash Regan alongside all other Holyrood leaders, and looks forward to meeting with her to discuss a range of issues – including Grangemouth.”

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn meanwhile told BBC Radio Scotland that his party leader is “going to come out fighting because he believes in what he says”.

Speaking about Mr Yousaf, the SNP MP added: “He believes in delivering for the people for Scotland. He believes in creating jobs and opportunities for the next generation.”

On Thursday night, a source close to Mr Yousaf had insisted he was “absolutely not” considering his position following the chaotic events earlier that day.

But his decision to end the Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens was branded an act of “political cowardice” by the smaller pro-independence party.

Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Greens, said then: “We no longer have confidence in a progressive government in Scotland doing the right thing for climate and nature.”

The Bute House Agreement had given the SNP-led Government a majority at Holyrood, but it had come under increasing strain after the Greens announced plans to put its future to a vote of their party members.

That came after Greens were angered when the Scottish Government announced last week it was to abandon a key climate change target for 2030, with some Greens also unhappy with SNP ministers’ response to the Cass Review on gender identity services for young people.