Humza Yousaf says he ‘paid price’ for upsetting Greens

Humza Yousaf says he ‘paid price’ for upsetting Greens
Humza Yousaf says he ‘paid price’ for upsetting Greens
1 May 2024, 12:09 BST

Updated 24 minutes ago

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Video caption, “That’s on me” – Humza Yousaf reflects on end of his time as first minister

Outgoing Prime Minister Humza Yousaf has said he “paid the price” for the way he ended the SNP’s power-sharing deal with the Scottish Greens.

Speaking for the first time since announcing his resignation, Mr Yousaf told BBC News ending the Bute House Agreement was the “right decision”.

“But I have to acknowledge the manner in which I did it caused great upset and that’s on me,” he said.

Mr Yousaf announced on Monday that he would resign as prime minister.

He intends to remain in office until a new SNP leader is named.

He told BBC News said it was clear to him that the SNP’s power-sharing deal with the Scottish Greens was “coming to an end anyway” after Green members were asked to vote on whether to end a power-sharing deal with the SNP after it scrapped key climate change targets.

Mr Yousaf said: “In my mind, whether it was a matter of days or weeks, the Bute House agreement was coming to an end.

“That’s why I say that ending the Bute House agreement was the right thing to do for the party and the country.

“But I fully accept the manner in which it was done clearly caused upset and therefore I’ve paid the price of that.”

He insisted did not regret ending the deal, adding: “I just regret the manner in which I ended it.”

Tension between the parties had increased following the announcement that NHS Scotland was pausing prescribing puberty blockers to under-18s referred by the country’s only specialist clinic, following a report by Dr Hilary Cass.

Mr Yousaf said Green co-leader Patrick Harvie’s response to the move – including his refusal to accept the Cass review as a valid scientific document – had “upset a lot of people” in the SNP but that it was “not necessarily” a factor in ending the Bute House Agreement.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Former finance secretary Kate Forbes narrowly lost out to Humza Yousaf in the 2023 leadership contest

Mr Yousaf announced his intention to step down as he faced two no-confidence votes tabled by opposition parties following the turbulent ending of the Bute House Agreement – a deal signed by his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon three years ago that brought two Green ministers into government.

Former Deputy Prime Minister John Swinney and former Finance Secretary Kate Forbes have emerged as the frontrunners in the process to succeed him, although neither has yet declared they are standing.

Mr Yousaf said he would not endorse either potential candidate.

He called for unity within the party and urged any potential candidates not to openly criticize their rivals.

“We will gain nothing if we talk each other down,” the prime minister said. “The only people who benefit from that are our opponents.”

Ms Forbes, who narrowly lost out to Mr Yousaf in the 2023 leadership contest, was criticized during the campaign for revealing she would have voted against gay marriage legislation had she been an MSP at the time due to her religious beliefs as a member of the Free Church of Scotland.

When asked if he felt Scotland could have a first minister who opposed gay marriage, Mr Yousaf said: “You can be a person of faith and be first minister.”

“What people will judge any potential candidate on are their policies,” he said, adding: “That is the right discussion to have – not whether someone of faith can be first minister.”

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Former deputy first minister John Swinney has been backed by several high-profile SNP figures

Both Mr Swinney and Ms Forbes have said they are considering SNP leadership bids but that they need to consider what they feel is right for their families, party and country.

A source close to Mr Swinney, who led the party between 2000 and 2004, told BBC Scotland News he had no plans to make an announcement on Wednesday.

He has been backed by several senior party figures, including Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, deputy leader Keith Brown and cabinet ministers Neil Gray, Shirley-Anne Somerville and Mairi McAllan.

Ms Forbes has been publicly supported by former ministers Fergus Ewing and Ivan McKee, as well as backbench MP Joanna Cherry.

Allies of Ms Forbes told BBC Scotland News she had made progress planning a potential leadership bid, including on policy positions and resources, in case she decided to stand.

Her supporters said she was not expected to make an announcement on Wednesday as it had only been 48 hours since Mr Yousaf announced his resignation.

Nominations for the SNP leadership opened on Monday and will close in one week. If more than one candidate receives 100 nominations from at least 20 local party branches, a ballot will be held among members to decide on a new leader.

Mr Yousaf has said he will resign as first minister once a new leader is chosen. At that point, parliament would have 28 days to nominate new prime minister to be appointed by the King.

If MSPs could not reach an agreement after 28 days, a snap election would be called.

No confidence vote

One of the no-confidence motions, directed at the prime minister himself, has since been pulled by the Scottish Tories, who said it had served its purpose.

A separate motion of no confidence in the whole government, tabled by Scottish Labour, will go ahead on Wednesday afternoon.

The vote is unlikely to pass without the support of the Greens, who called for it to be withdrawn after the prime minister confirmed he would be stepping down.

If passed, the motion would compel the entire government to resign, with parliament given 28 days to nominate a new prime minister. Failing that, a snap election would be called.

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