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Humza Yousaf Stands Down As Scotland First Minister And SNP Leader

Humza Yousaf delivered his resignation speech at Bute House in Edinburgh (Alamy)

4 min read

Scotland's first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) Humza Yousaf has announced his decision to resign.

The first minister faced a no confidence vote in his leadership later this week following his decision to end the Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens.

Yousaf made the announcement in a speech at Bute House, just days after telling reporters he would fight on as first minister. 

The Scottish Conservatives said the first minister had quit rather than face a “humiliating defeat”.

A former justice secretary and health secretary, Yousaf became first minister last year after defeating Kate Forbes and Ash Regan for the SNP leadership. The contest followed the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon.

Despite vowing to continue his predecessor’s agenda, Yousaf’s government was forced to drop plans for reform of the Gender Recognition Act after the legislation was blocked by the UK Government. It also put off plans for a deposit return scheme and scrapped plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs). Earlier this month it was confirmed the government would ditch a key 2030 climate pledge.

But it was Yousaf’s decision to end the power-sharing deal with the Greens which sparked a furious reaction from his party’s erstwhile partners in government and ultimately led to his downfall.

That decision was followed by a motion of no confidence put forward by the Scottish Tories, which all the other main parties including the Greens said they would support.

A further motion of no confidence in the government as a whole, lodged by Labour, would lead to a general election if successful.

A Downing Street spokesperson told reporters ahead of Yousaf's resignation speech that the UK Government would work with a new administration "to the same end" of "working together to deliver for people in Scotland", insisting that the Prime Minister would want to focus on "real issues that matter to people" rather than the "ins and outs of politics".

Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said in a statement that the Scottish Conservatives had delivered on their promise to be a strong opposition to the SNP by "forcing" Yousaf out of office.

"The next first minister must abandon the nationalist obsession with independence and focus solely on Scotland's top priorities, such as creating jobs and improving our ailing public services," he said.

"Scottish people cannot afford another SNP first minister focused solely on separating Scotland from the rest of the UK. Humza Yousaf is gone but the SNP remains  – and the power to change that is in the hands of Scotland's voters.

"Now that we have forced Humza Yousaf out of office, we are asking voters to help us beat the SNP in seats up and down Scotland at the next General Election."

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he wanted to thank Yousaf for his public service, but pointed to "17 years of SNP failure" that meant "Scots are being failed every day".

"The SNP are a divided party which is out of ideas and incapable of rising to the challenges Scotland faces," he said.

"They cannot impose another unelected first minister on Scotland in a backroom deal – the people of Scotland should decide who leads our country. There must be an election – it's time for change and Scottish Labour is ready to deliver it."

Some SNP MPs shared their disappointment that Yousaf had resigned. Pete Wishart said it was a "real pity" Yousaf's time in office "could not work out", while Ian Blackford said he was "sorry" to see such a "good and a decent man" feel compelled to stand down.

However, MPs from opposing parties were quick to compare the SNP's recent troubles to the "chaos" of the Conservative Westminster government.

Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael posted that "caught between left and right, and lacking the political authority to bridge the gap, it was only a matter of time before Mr Yousaf fell through the middle".

"Not for the first time, I have been struck by the truth that the SNP and the Tories share a similar approach to politics," he wrote.

"Both parties prize victory above all. Their leaders’ stock rises and falls on the perception that they are winners who can bring more success to the flock. Neither the SNP or the Tories have any strong, unifying attachment to political ideology."

A version of this article first appeared on Holyrood. 

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