HUMZA Yousaf is facing questions over his judgment after giving a key job to an MSP who infamously joked about “hairy knuckled lipstick-wearing transgender laydees”.
SNP MSP Gillian Martin also claimed that college PR staff would “froth at the mouth with excitement if anyone in a wheelchair does anything that can be remotely described as an achievement”.
And she gave advice on whether to tip “American Jews” and “American Blacks”, saying the latter should get nothing or next to nothing and were “to be avoided”.
Mr Yousaf said Ms Martin had apologised to him when he asked her to be his minister for energy last night, and that she had “been on a journey”.
The comments, written on a personal blog before she was elected MSP for Aberdeenshire East in 2016, came to light in 2018 when Ms Martin was previously due to be a minister.
Nicola Sturgeon cancelled her provisional appointment after an uproar at Holyrood, and admitted Ms Martin’s remarks were “ill-advised”.
Mr Yousaf, who stressed his “progressive” credentials in the SNP leadership race, nevertheless brought Ms Martin into his government.
She and other first-time ministers are due to go before a confirmatory vote by MSPs later.
Speaking to the media after his debut at FMQs, Mr Yousaf said: “I would say that Gillian Martin knows my position in relation to those remarks.
“I'll be no surprise to any of you, of course, that I've got a really strong track record of standing up against bigotry of any sort.
“She has apologised for those remarks, She apologised to me also for those remarks when we had a discussion about her appointment.
“Gillian has been on a journey, and I think if you look at, for example, her fulsome support of the GRR [Gender Recognition Reform] Bill it shows the journey that she has been on.”
Asked if the Scottish Greens had raised any concerns about Ms Martin, he said: “No.”
Scottish Tory MSP Annie Wells said: “Putting Gillian Martin forward for a ministerial role calls into question Humza Yousaf’s judgment.
“He’s clearly ready to cast aside her beyond-the-pale comments that came to light the last time she looked set to join the ministerial payroll.
“Humza Yousaf is continuing to rapidly lose credibility over his cabinet and ministerial appointments – whether it is appointing failed ministers or ones that have previously been shown to be unsuitable.”
In 2018, Ms Sturgeon said she had been unaware of all Ms Martin’s comments and said she would take the opposition criticism “on the chin” and “obviously reflect carefully”.
However Mr Yousaf was aware, as they were fully aired five years ago.
On 28 June 2018, then Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard read out the remarks about transgender people and disabled people and questioned the First Minister’s judgment.
He said: “The First Minister knew about those comments and still proposed to put Gillian Martin in charge of further and higher education.
“In the end, this is not just about Gillian Martin’s judgment; this is about the First Minister’s judgment, is it not?”
Then Tory leader Jackson Carlaw added: “This morning, I came across the fact that she [Ms Martin] said:
‘American Jews- tip ok but only if you’ve absolutely busted your hump and everything was faultless in the extreme. Often complain about the quality of the food, and then the small portions ...
“‘American Blacks- don’t tip at all or tip next to nothing- to be avoided. The waiters (also black, remember) would do anything to avoid serving a table of blacks or be openly disappointed if allocated one.’
“That is shocking and I cannot make light of that.
“The proposed appointment prompts a judgment about the First Minister. She has done the job long enough; thin excuses do not cut it.”
READ MORE: Margaret Ferrier faces 30 day Commons ban
Labour MSP Rhoda Grant asked Ms Sturgeon that day: “If she believes that Gillian Martin is not fit to be a minister, is Gillian Martin really fit to be a member of the Scottish Parliament?”
In response, Ms Sturgeon said: “First, I was genuinely not aware of the comments that Jackson Carlaw read out. As I understand it, they came from blog posts from more than 10 years ago.
“Secondly, Gillian Martin has been a member of this Parliament for two years, and members across the chamber have got to know her well.
“I simply ask members to ask themselves whether, in their heart of hearts, they believe that the comments that have been read out- however ill-advised they were; I do not take issue with that - reflect the views of the person they have come to know.
“Thirdly, when I was made aware of the comments this morning, I immediately took action to lodge a new motion without Gillian Martin’s name on it.
“I think that all parties should resolve to act quickly when such issues arise.
“I do not want to get party political, but there are elected representatives of other parties up and down the country who have made vile, homophobic and racist comments without action being taken, so let this be a moment of reflection for all of us.
“Before we stand in glass houses throwing stones, we should make sure that our houses are all in order.”