Yousaf: I feel regret at how relationship with Salmond turned sour

The First Minister said his former boss was interested in giving the SNP a ‘good kicking’ every day.

Humza Yousaf: I feel hurt and regret at how relationship with Alex Salmond turned sour PA Media

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf has said he feels “hurt and regret” at the breakdown of his relationship with the SNP’s former leader, Alex Salmond.

Yousaf credited the former first minister and party leader as the reason he joined the SNP and said Salmond gave him many opportunities at the start of his career.

But speaking on The Rest is Politics podcast, hosted by former spin doctor Alastair Campbell and former MP Rory Stewart, Yousaf accused his former boss – who now leads pro-independence party Alba – as giving the SNP a “kicking every day”.

Salmond’s relationship with the SNP began to deteriorate following a high-profile falling out with his successor, Nicola Sturgeon.

The row followed allegations of sexual harassment made against Salmond, who was later cleared of all charges following a High Court trial.

Speaking of their relationship, Yousaf told the podcast he had “exchanged pleasantries” with Salmond since taking on the top job, adding he believed Salmond had an “ulterior motive”.

He said: “I wouldn’t go out my way, only because (I) haven’t seen evidence from Alex, nor the party that he leads, that they are interested in anything other than giving the SNP a kicking.

“If you believe in independence, giving the largest vehicle that’s driving forward independence a kicking every single day, through every single press release, doesn’t make sense to me.

“It speaks to me to a very ulterior motive.”

The portraits of first ministers of Scotland, left to right, Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf hanging on the wall at Bute House in Edinburgh
The portraits of first ministers of Scotland, left to right, Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf hanging on the wall at Bute House in Edinburgh.

Yousaf said he had hoped the former first minister would take on an “elder statesman” role in giving advice and assisting his former party with the independence movement.

But he said: “I feel, if I’m honest with you, the breakdown in the relationship with Alex is a matter of not just regret, but I feel quite hurt about it all and how it has all transpired.

“Somebody I looked up to now spends a fair bit of his time laying the boot into the SNP and trying to damage me, whether that’s personally or the SNP, and frankly the cause that we both love.”

He added: “It feels difficult to think that (his motivations) are anything other than to try and replace the SNP which is never going to happen.”

The First Minister also said he felt “sad” and “worried” about his predecessor, Nicola Sturgeon, amid an ongoing police investigation into party finances and criticism over the deletion of WhatsApp messages relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “I’ll always have that deep affection for Nicola. I worry about her to an extent as well.

“She’s dealing with a lot, as we know, and I found it really sad about the certain elements who are seeking to try to tarnish her reputation.”

He said of Sturgeon: “Without any doubt, (she) and the rest of the Government, only ever put the interests of the people she was serving first and tried to protect them from harm.”

Asked if her marriage to the party’s chief executive was a “recipe waiting to go wrong”, he said: “In hindsight, you could absolutely reflect on that.

“I think nobody really questioned it because we didn’t see any red flags.”

The Alba Party has been asked for comment.

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