Humza Yousaf has said he is not concerned about dissent within the SNP’s Holyrood group, following reports that a group of backbench MSPs are looking to develop their own policy positions.
The First Minister also indicated the legal advice around Section 35 – the UK Government’s block of the Scottish Parliament’s gender recognition law – would not be published.
On Monday, Yousaf took part in his first official visit as First Minister as he travelled to Ayr Academy, where he saw children taking part in sports.
While there, he announced an extra £15m for low-income families to access school-age childcare in a number of projects around Scotland.
Asked if he was concerned about party unity, he said he was not.
He said: “I read beyond the headline, it seemed to suggest that there were some MSPs that wanted to – in their own words – work constructively with the Government to put forward some policy suggestions.
“I’ve got a very open door as First Minister. Any good policy suggestions that come from my own group, be it from the front benches or the back benches, I’ll be very keen to look at. ”
Following polling which showed Scottish Labour gaining on the SNP, he said it was important not to be “complacent”.
He said: “Hence why I’m here for my first visit, because we want to try to help as many households, particularly low-income households, as we possibly can with childcare and that helps individuals get into work, and stay in work and, of course, it helps the economy too.”
During the SNP leadership contest, Yousaf said he would go to court to fight the UK Government’s use of a Section 35 order to block the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.
However, he said he would not do so if legal advice told him such a court case was not winnable.
Yousaf said: “We don’t make legal advice public for very, very good reason.”
He continued: “It’s something I’ll examine in very close detail as First Minister.
“But my starting principle has always been that we should challenge that Section 35, that Westminster veto to legislation that was passed by a majority of the Scottish Parliament.”
Yousaf said he did not think this case merited an exception to the convention of not publishing Government legal advice.
He said: “I don’t think this is an exceptional circumstance.
“It is important that ministers look at that legal advice.
“I don’t think we should just dismiss that convention, there’s good reason for why that legal advice is not published.”
Reflecting on his first few days as First Minister, he said they had been “pretty hectic but memorable, historic” and “surreal”.
He added: “I managed to take my daughter to feed the ducks and play in the park yesterday which I’m really, really pleased about.
“So a bit of normality amongst what has been quite a hectic schedule.”