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SNP at a Crossroads: Humza Yousaf Warns Against Toxic Leadership Battles Amid Resignation and Independence Stalemate



First Minister Humza Yousaf has stated that a damaging leadership race would negatively impact the SNP and the push for independence. He dismissed claims that he was ousted to allow John Swinney to take over as "absolute nonsense."

By Connor Gillies, correspondent for Scotland, and Jenness Mitchell, reporter for Scotland

Wednesday, May 1, 2024, 2:

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Departing First Minister Humza Yousaf expressed to Sky News his concern that a contentious leadership race could damage the SNP and the independence movement.

Mr. Yousaf, who recently declared his resignation as the leader of the SNP and as Scotland's First Minister, declined to speculate on the future course of his party. He dismissed claims that he was ousted to clear the path for John Swinney as "complete and utter rubbish."

The outgoing chief denied claims that Scottish independence is more distant than previously, yet conceded that there is no "quick path" to a second independence referendum.

After considering his involvement in the previous year's intense leadership contest, Mr. Yousaf is encouraging prospective candidates to uphold one another instead of criticizing each other.

During a discussion with Sky's Scotland correspondent Connor Gillies, Mr. Yousaf anticipated experiencing a wide range of emotions in the weeks and months ahead.

He expressed, "I will definitely regret how things concluded."

Mr. Yousaf stepped down from his position after the collapse of the Bute House Agreement.

Shortly after the conclusion of the coalition agreement between the Scottish Greens, Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, declared his intention to introduce a no-confidence vote against the First Minister.

Frustrated by their removal from power, the Scottish Greens declared that their MSPs would support the motion.

Scottish Labour subsequently declared its intention to propose a vote of no confidence against the Scottish government.

Attention was focused on Alba Party MSP Ash Regan, whose vote might have been crucial in deciding Mr Yousaf's fate.

Mr. Yousaf extended an olive branch to his adversaries within the political arena, aiming to quell the unrest. However, he acknowledged that he had not fully grasped the extent of the distress and dismay his behaviors had inflicted on members of the Scottish Green party.

The premier refuted claims that he intended to collaborate with Ms. Regan from the Alba Party to secure his position.

He mentioned that he returned Ms. Regan's call on Monday morning, recognizing "several requests," but he realized that he was "not willing to compromise my principles or values, or make agreements with just anyone to maintain my position."

'Many' encouraged Yousaf to continue

Efforts are underway to identify the next leader for both the SNP and Scotland.

Mr. Yousaf plans to stay in office until a new successor is named.

The Scottish National Party has opened the floor for nominations, with the deadline set for midday on Monday, May 6.

Former Deputy First Minister John Swinney and previous Finance Secretary Kate Forbes are being viewed as likely leading candidates.

Mr. Yousaf refuted claims that he was ousted by his associates to make way for Mr. Swinney's leadership.

He stated: "It's totally absurd and illogical."

The premier stated that he had been contacted by numerous MSPs, MPs, and local council members, all of whom encouraged him to persevere and overcome the no-confidence vote.

After choosing to resign, Mr. Yousaf declined to comment on whether his party requires new members and a different outlook.

He mentioned that individuals contemplating a candidacy should have the necessary "time and space" to discuss their decision with their family members.

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'Promote your candidate enthusiastically'

Mr. Yousaf called for support for leadership candidates, following a heated competition to succeed former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last year, which featured Mr. Yousaf, Kate Forbes, and Ms. Regan engaging in spirited exchanges during televised debates.

He stated, "I participated in the previous leadership race. I need to consider my own involvement in it.

It benefits neither the party nor the independence movement when a candidate or their associates speak negatively about another candidate.

"My request is straightforward: whether it's to John, to Kate, or to anyone endorsing them, or possibly any other prospective candidates, please promote your candidate enthusiastically.

"John and Kate each possess numerous positive qualities. It's better to highlight their strengths instead of criticizing others, as doing so only advantages our rivals."

Stay informed on the most recent developments in the UK and globally by tuning into Sky News.

Outcome of Autonomy Debate and Legal Challenges Facing the SNP

Discussing the topic of independence, Mr. Yousaf remarked, "The level of public">king for independence is tantalizingly near; we must simply continue to strive more diligently to gain that widespread support."

He continued, "Let me be clear, there's no quick fix available. If there were, believe me, we would have discovered it already."

Mr. Yousaf mentioned that the SNP currently has about 70,000 members, though he confessed to not recalling when he last verified this number.

The premier acknowledged that the investigation by Police Scotland into the SNP's financial affairs had posed significant challenges for the party.

Operation Branchform has led to the arrest and charging of former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell on accusations of embezzlement.

His spouse, Ms. Sturgeon, along with the former party treasurer, Colin Beattie, were also taken into custody and later released without charges in connection with the investigation.

Mr. Yousaf acknowledged, "This has been a tough challenge, and there's no use pretending it hasn't been. It would be unwise for me to claim otherwise."

Explore further: Who might succeed Humza Yousaf? What are the next steps after his resignation? As the SNP faces a pivotal moment, which path will the party choose?

For an enhanced video experience, it is recommended to utilize the Chrome browser.

What are the future plans for Yousaf?

The premier expressed great pride in the accomplishments of his administration throughout his tenure.

He emphasized that as a result of measures taken by Holyrood, it is projected that this year 100,000 children will be raised out of poverty.

What does the future hold for Mr. Yousaf on a personal level

Stay ahead with the latest breaking news updates.

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The first minister mentioned that he anticipates a period serving as a backbencher and will remain dedicated to advocating for positive masculinity.

His passion for global matters will drive him to persistently advocate for peace, especially in Gaza, where he noted that the "atrocities persist."

Mr. Yousaf stated, "I'm not entirely certain about my next steps. However, after a 12-year tenure as a government minister, I am quite eager to spend some time on the backbench and enjoy a more tranquil life."

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