SNP rivals hope 'minister for gaffes' Humza Yousaf replaces Sturgeon
Political rivals hope ‘minister for gaffes’ is picked by SNP: MICHAEL BLACKLEY analyses race to replace Nicola Sturgeon
- Health Secretary Humza Yousaf is securing wider support of SNP establishment
- But opposition parties are also desperate for ‘minister for gaffes’ to win the race
Humza Yousaf appears to be securing the support of much of the SNP establishment – but he is also the candidate that opposition parties are desperate to become First Minister.
The Health Secretary was backed by Neil Gray, the Culture Minister, as he launched his bid to become Nicola Sturgeon’s successor yesterday, and he has also secured support from a series of other ministers.
But his claims to have helped the NHS start to enjoy ‘green shoots of recovery’ from the crisis which has dogged its performance over recent months were ridiculed by opponents.
The Scottish Conservatives believe that, for many of its voters, Mr Yousaf would be a similar Nationalist hate figure to Nicola Sturgeon, and could help ensure they continue to benefit from a strong anti-SNP vote.
Humza Yousaf appears to be securing the support of much of the SNP establishment – but he is also the candidate that opposition parties are desperate to become First Minister
The Scottish Conservatives believe that, for many of its voters, Mr Yousaf would be a similar Nationalist hate figure to Nicola Sturgeon (above), and could help ensure they continue to benefit from a strong anti-SNP vote
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, on the other hand, is seen as much more of a challenge, given her socially conservative views and pro-business and pro-economy approach.
Mr Yousaf seemed more interested in targeting Labour voters yesterday, and chose Clydebank as the location for his launch event in a bid to talk up his working-class credentials.
But his approach does not concern those within Scottish Labour, who are planning to ruthlessly highlight his record of incompetence as health secretary, justice secretary and transport minister if he wins the top job.
One Labour source said: ‘Humza might sing the right tune and dance the right dance, but only for the first four bars of the song and then it all goes wrong and he falls over. He is useless. Ultimately, it does not matter what he says about taking us on.
‘Sturgeon had the ability to connect to Labour voters and Humza has not demonstrated that at all.’
At yesterday’s launch, Mr Yousaf highlighted his record in government and his experience at a ministerial level as the reason he can lead his party and country.
He said: ‘For over a decade, I have been trusted with some of the country’s most difficult jobs: transport, justice, and currently entrusted with the responsibility of guiding our health service through its recovery from the pandemic.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, on the other hand, is seen as much more of a challenge, given her socially conservative views and pro-business and pro-economy approach
‘We are seeing green shoots of recovery. Our longest waits for inpatients and outpatients decreased by almost a quarter in 90 days, ambulance responses improved, significant increases in eight and 12 hour waits in A&E compared to our winter peak and Scotland continues, of course, to have the best performing A&E services in the UK.
‘But of course there are challenges that still remain, just as there are in health systems across the UK and indeed across the whole world due to the global pandemic.’
But critics were angered by Mr Yousaf’s failure to acknowledge the scale of the crisis that Scotland’s NHS has faced on his watch. They believe he has a record of incompetence across all the key roles he has held.
When he was justice secretary, he was mired in the controversy surrounding the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, widely condemned as an attack on free speech and described by SNP veteran Jim Sillars as ‘one of the most pernicious and dangerous pieces of legislation ever produced by any government in modern times in any part of the United Kingdom’.
At yesterday’s launch, Mr Yousaf highlighted his record in government and his experience at a ministerial level as the reason he can lead his party and country
Mr Yousaf was also ridiculed for claiming that conversations over the dinner table which incite hatred must also be prosecuted under the hate crime legislation.
Since moving to the health service brief, he has been battling constant calls for his resignation over declining performances amid a winter crisis and the failure to come up with a real recovery plan.
Mr Yousaf is also said to have angered the main health trade unions during negotiations over pay, which could make it impossible to continue SNP attempts to appeal to union barons on the Left.
He also previously oversaw the decline of ScotRail services prior to nationalisation as transport minister – and was famously fined £300 for driving a car without insurance.
‘He is the minister for gaffes,’ said one opposition politician.
‘If he became First Minister, he would be the worst First Minister since devolution. Bring it on.’
From MSP to Scottish Health Secretary: Who is Humza Yousaf?
Humza Yousaf is currently the Scottish Health Secretary and one of the SNP’s most senior and high-profile ministers.
The 37-year-old’s decision to run in the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon came after ‘careful consideration’ of the impact it will have on his family.
He will hope to tap into the same base of activist support as the First Minister, particularly in Glasgow – which they both represent at Holyrood.
Writing in the Sunday Mail, the Health Secretary said: ‘You’ve got to put yourself forward if you think you’re the best person for the job. And I do.
‘This is the top job in the country, and it needs somebody who has experience.’
After studying politics at Glasgow University, Mr Yousaf began working as an office manager for the SNP’s Bashir Ahmad, the first MSP from an Asian and Muslim background.
Following Mr Ahmad’s death in 2009, Mr Yousaf went on to work for other MSPs including Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.
Throughout his time as Scottish Health Secretary, Mr Yousaf (pictured last November) has faced opposition attacks over NHS performance, particularly A&E waiting times
After being elected in 2011 as a Glasgow region MSP, he took his oath to the Queen in English and in Urdu.
He did the same when re-elected in 2016, wearing both a kilt and sherwani to reflect his Scottish and Pakistani heritage.
His father, who is from Pakistan, and his mother, from Kenya, moved to the UK in the 1960s.
Mr Yousaf’s first ministerial appointment came under Mr Salmond’s leadership in September 2012, when he became minister for external affairs and international development.
He stayed on in a junior ministerial role when Ms Sturgeon became First Minister, though he was then promoted to the transport portfolio and later justice.
But his introduction of the Hate Crime Bill while justice secretary was not uncontroversial, with critics saying it put undue limits on free speech.
Perhaps his greatest challenge has come as Health Secretary, with Mr Yousaf taking over the post from Jeane Freeman in 2021 as she stood down from Holyrood.
The coronavirus pandemic was still affecting Scotland at that point.
He revealed that the first call he received after being made Health Secretary was from his mother, who was keen to find out what job he had been given in the Cabinet reshuffle.
Upon being told he had been given the health portfolio, she said: ‘What have you done to annoy Nicola?’
Throughout his time in the role, he has faced opposition attacks over the performance of the NHS, particularly A&E waiting times.
This hit a nadir in December 2022, when performance against the four-hour target for admission, transfer or discharge fell to just 62 per cent.
Mr Yousaf has always emphasised the impact of the pandemic on the health service and the support being provided by the Scottish Government.
Mr Yousaf has stood by Ms Sturgeon throughout his time as a minister and MSP.
On the issue of gender recognition reform, which has seen rare divisions emerge in the SNP, there is no indication he would take a different tack.
Source: Read Full Article