Tumultuous week looms as Yousaf and government face unprecedented double vote

Humza Yousaf 'considers quitting' as he faces the threat of being ousted by MSPs this week.

Tumultuous week looms as Humza Yousaf and Scottish Government face unprecedented double vote STV News

Humza Yousaf’s political career hangs in the balance this week following the intense backlash to his decision to end the historic Bute House Agreement.

The First Minister brought the SNP’s powersharing deal with the Greens to an end last Thursday – a move that saw his former allies vow to vote against him in a motion of no confidence.

Yousaf has publicly insisted he will not resign but STV News understands he is considering his position, with an announcement to be made as soon as Monday.

And that is because he faces two no confidence votes in the coming days – one into his leadership as First Minister and the other into the government he leads.

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

Yousaf has written to other parties in an attempt to build bridges and establish how they can work with his minority government, inviting other party leaders to meetings at his official residence.

Letters were sent to the Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour, the Scottish Greens, the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Alba Party on Friday night.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said it was a “humiliating and embarrassing letter” and the Scottish Liberal Democrats have also rejected the offer of talks. Scottish Labour said they would respond in due course.

The Scottish Parliament’s bureau is expected to consider a proposed business programme on Tuesday morning where the timing of each no confidence motion is likely to be decided.

STV News takes a look at how the motions differ and what we can expect to happen next.

Vote of no confidence into Yousaf as FM

This motion was brought by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross at Holyrood on Thursday, just hours after Yousaf terminated the Bute House Agreement.

It has already gained the support of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, who have all said they back ousting the First Minister.

It means Yousaf’s fate could hang in the balance of a single MSP – his former leadership rival and Alba defector Ash Regan.

She has written to Yousaf with a list of demands that she says will ensure her support if met.

Former first minister Alex Salmond, now leader of the Alba Party, has said Regan will present Yousaf with “reasonable proposals” which could help him out of a “pretty tight corner” when they meet.

But Yousaf’s spokesperson has already dismissed as “fantasy” the idea the First Minister would agree an electoral pact with the Alba Party to gain its support ahead of the no-confidence votes.

A tight vote is expected at Holyrood next week, and since the SNP have 63 out of the 129 MSPs, Regan’s vote would appear to be crucial in getting Yousaf over the line.

The Alba Party will likely cast the deciding vote in a no-confidence vote against Humza Yousaf.STV News

A vote of no confidence in a minister, the First Minister or even the Scottish Government as a whole requires only a simple majority in the Scottish Parliament for it to be agreed.
None of these require a two-thirds majority. 

If everyone takes part in the vote – and sometimes MSPs might not be able to because of ill health or other reasons – Yousaf would need at least 64 of the 129 MSPs to vote for him.

As presiding officer, Alison Johnstone traditionally does not vote.

She would only vote if there is a tie, and by convention the presiding officer uses their vote to support the status quo – so would back the first minister.

While the result of the ballot could not compel the First Minister to quit, realistically it would prove almost impossible for him to stay in post if he did not have the confidence of the majority of MSPs.

The resignation of the First Minister would not automatically trigger a Holyrood election.

Under Scottish Parliament rules, if a First Minister steps down MSPs have 28 days in which to elect a replacement.

Vote of no confidence into the Scottish Government

The Tory motion against Yousaf has broad political support outside of the SNP, but most opposition parties have also said they will support Labour’s motion against the entire Scottish Government.

The big difference with this motion is that it would be binding under law, unlike the Tory-called vote on the FM personally, which is non-binding.

In other words, Yousaf would not be legally or officially obliged to comply if he lost the personal vote, although his position would be viewed as being untenable.

If there is a vote of no-confidence in the Scottish Government, however, both the FM and ministers are required to resign.

The SNP are two short of a majority.STV News

If the Labour motion is carried, the Scottish Parliament is not automatically dissolved, instead the parliament has 28 days to choose a new FM (by simple majority) (Section 46 of the Scotland Act). If it cannot do so, parliament is dissolved.   

But some Greens MSPs have already signalled they are not as gung-ho in supporting the Labour motion.

Mark Ruskell, the Scottish Green MSP Mid-Scot & Fife said: “It was the poor judgement of Humza in ending the Bute House Agreement that is in question, not the record of the SNP/Green gov.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “It’s a matter now of when – not if – Humza Yousaf will step down as First Minister.

“It would be untenable for the SNP to assume it can impose another unelected First Minister on Scotland.

“Scottish Labour has no confidence in Humza Yousaf or this SNP Government – that is why we are laying a motion today to this effect to say that the parliament has no confidence in the Scottish Government.

“People across the parliament should support our motion because it is for the people of Scotland to decide who is First Minister, not just a group of SNP members.

“Removing Humza Yousaf alone will not deliver the change we need – we need to get rid of the entire SNP government which has left almost one in six Scots on an NHS waiting list, public finances in chaos and public services at breaking point. 

“The people of Scotland deserve a fresh start – this can only come with a Scottish election.

“Scottish Labour is ready and willing to deliver the change we need – from restoring our NHS, to creating jobs and making Scotland a global leader in clean energy.

“The time for change has come.”

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