Yousaf 'can't rule out' Scottish election as he faces vote of no confidence

The First Minister said it would be a 'poor choice' for the Greens to back the motion of no confidence in him.

First Minister Humza Yousaf can’t rule out Scottish election as he faces vote of no confidence Getty Images

Humza Yousaf says he “can’t rule out” a Scottish election as he faces a vote of no confidence.

The First Minister has written to leaders of other parties in a bid to find “common ground”, as he invites them to talks at his official residence to see how they can work with his minority government.

He was adamant he would win the confidence votes but said he would not rule out an early Holyrood election.

Yousaf is fighting for his political future ahead of votes of no confidence and is attempting to build bridges with the other political leaders at Holyrood.

How did we get here?

Yousaf has written to opposition parties to ask for separate meetings with each group at Bute House in Edinburgh to discuss how they can “contribute constructively”, while acknowledging that there are “strong feelings” about the upcoming votes.

The First Minister also wrote to former rival, Alba leader Ash Regan, who could hold the key to his future in government.

Alba MSP Ash ReganGetty Images

It comes after he said it would be a “poor choice” for the Scottish Greens to back the motion of no confidence in him.

Speaking to Sky News, Yousaf said: “I look forward to hearing back from them soon.”

It was put to Yousaf that the Scottish Greens, his former partners in government, would not be supporting him as First Minister – meaning Regan could be crucial to his political survival.

He said: “That would be really disappointing if that is the Greens’ position. As I say, I’ve reached out to them, they are saying publicly that they’re going to support a Conservative motion against – a First Minister, an independence government.

“I think that would be, I think, a poor choice to make. So of course I have written to Ash Regan, as well. I look forward to speaking to her too.”

Asked how he would explain to his supporters that his government would be propped up by Alex Salmond’s Alba Party, he said: “I’ll be setting out to anybody I meet with, whoever comes round that table, that these are the priorities of the SNP minority government, this is what we’ll be pursuing.

“It’ll then be up to – be it Ash Regan, be it Lorna Slater, be it Patrick Harvie – or any of them to decide what button they push when it comes to the vote of no confidence.”

The Alba Party said an emergency meeting of the Alba Party National Executive Committee will be convened over the weekend, where Ash Regan MSP will set out more detail to her party’s ruling body of the areas of importance to the people of Scotland that she will seek movement on. 

The PA news agency understands letters were sent to the Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour, the Scottish Greens and the Alba Party on Friday night.

What happened on Thursday?

Yousaf terminated the power-sharing deal between the SNP and Scottish Greens on Thursday, leading to the smaller pro-independence party to announce they would back the motion of no confidence in his leadership.

In his letters, Yousaf emphasised that the Scottish Parliament has previous experience of minority administrations which had delivered benefits for “people, communities and businesses”.

He said: “Each group within the parliament must contribute constructively, and I believe Scotland’s people want to see their political parties work together where and when they can, building consensus for the common good.

“I recognise the strong feelings in relation to the confidence debate our parliament is set to have next week.

“Notwithstanding that, I am writing to all Holyrood party groups to ask them to meet me next week, in separate meetings, to discuss their concerns and indeed priorities, in a hopefully constructive spirit.”

Douglas RossGetty Images

What are other leaders and ministers saying?

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who lodged a motion of no confidence in Yousaf, suggested he is in little mood for compromise.

Ross said: “The only letter Humza Yousaf should be writing is one offering his resignation.

“He says it’s important for the Scottish people, communities and businesses to have effective government as if he’s just discovered it, when he is the one who has ignored their priorities and failed to listen to concerns.

“But given how much his views have changed in the last week perhaps I’ll go along to Bute House, if there’s a possibility I can convince him to support my motion.”

Leaders of the other parties have not yet issued responses to the letters.

Speaking on Friday, Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar said: “I am more than happy to engage with people of all parties, but it is clear that Humza Yousaf is out of time.

“He is leading a chaotic and divided political party and an incompetent government that is failing the people of Scotland every single day, and one conversation isn’t going to change that.”

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

On Saturday, Yousaf’s former leadership rival Kate Forbes urged colleagues to back him in the upcoming votes of no confidence.

Forbes, who came second in the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon last year, said recent events had been “an embarrassment for every parliamentarian in every party”.

Kate Forbes backs former rival YousafSTV News

Writing in The National, Forbes said: “It is easy to be loyal to a party when times are good and the party is ahead in the polls.

“But you find out what real leadership is – and what real loyalty looks like – when times are tougher and that is why I will back the SNP and the First Minister through next week’s fight and I urge everyone in our party and everyone who cares about Scotland to do the same.”

Amid the tight parliamentary arithmetic at Holyrood, the vote of Alba Party Holyrood leader – and former SNP MSP – Ash Regan will be vital for Yousaf.

She is one of the political leaders Yousaf has written to ahead of the confidence votes in Holyrood.

In a BBC interview on Friday, Regan said she had not spoken to Yousaf since the leadership contest last year. She said she is still considering how to cast her vote.

She said: “I think that potentially some of the things he said about me when I left to go to a different political party last year probably shows that it’s always wise to have that level of professional courtesy to people that you work with.”

In October last year, Yousaf said Regan’s defection to Alba was “no great loss”.

On Friday, Yousaf was adamant he would win the confidence votes but said he would not rule out an early Holyrood election.

He told the PA news agency: “When the vote comes I fully intend to win.”

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