Daily Record

A year is a long time in politics

Humza Yousaf has survived the most turbulent opening 12 months experience­d by any first minister of Scotland but with a general election on the way, Political Editor Paul Hutcheon believes the coming year will be just as tough


Humza Yousaf’s greatest achievemen­t in the last 12 months has been holding on to his job.

He has faced the most turbulent start of any first minister in the history of devolution and survived.

He is not a perfect politician but he is a resilient one.

All leaders have to balance weathering the storms of everyday troubles with delivering the sunny uplands promised to voters.

Most of his time in office has been spent under black clouds he could not dodge.

Within weeks of him becoming First Minister, predecesso­r Nicola Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell were arrested amid an SNP fraud probe.

Even though they were released without charge, the ongoing Operation Branchform still haunts Yousaf ’s leadership.

The scandal of Sturgeon and her team deleting their Covid WhatsApps was another mess that landed on his lap.

And the taxpayer-funded farce of his Health Secretary Michael Matheson’s data roaming bill sapped even more of his energy.

Yousaf’s early support for Matheson contribute­d to the growing sense of crisis but all three debacles were not of Yousaf ’s making.

He also inherited a shambles from Sturgeon on indyref 2 after her preferred approach of going to the UK Supreme Court failed.

The legitimate criticism of Yousaf is the slow progress – in some areas he has even gone backwards – in meeting his key goals.

Yousaf won the leadership by contrastin­g his progressiv­e politics with the social conservati­sm of Kate Forbes.

He pitched his tent on the centre-left, described himself as a socialist and cited cuts to child poverty as his number one priority.

This was music to the ears of many Scots and a message many Daily Record readers could fall behind.

His big chance to effect bold change was the Budget in December.

This was the chance to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality and shift resources to struggling Scots in a cost-of-living crisis.

In the end, his damp squib budget pleased nobody and angered everybody.

He increased income tax on the rich without restributi­ng the money to the poor.

He put huge pressure on town hall budgets by funding a council tax freeze and pushed through shocking housing cuts.

And he announced a miserly £1.70 a week increase in the Scottish Child Payment – barely covering a cup of coffee. All new leaders have a window of opportunit­y in the early days of government to use their political capital but Yousaf fluffed his big moment.

The criticism of Yousaf by Labour and the Tories can automatica­lly be discounted. They want him to fail and will refuse to recognise achievemen­t even when it happens.

So Yousaf should instead heed the searing criticism of his budget by the charities and anti-poverty groups that should be his natural allies. They loathed what he did and were not afraid to say so.

Yousaf has even moved to the right of Sturgeon on business, opposing Labour’s beefed-up windfall tax on oil and gas and suggesting support for corporatio­n tax cuts.

Part of the drift can be explained by the SNP’s humbling in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by election.

Labour not only hammered the SNP but they did so by

most of his time has been spent under black clouds paul hutcheon on yousaf’s struggle in first year

attracting the suburban voters who backed Sturgeon and Alex Salmond.

The Rutherglen nightmare led to an emergency summit at Bute House where former Cabinet secretarie­s John Swinney and Bruce Crawford were brought in for advice.

The outcome of the meeting was a move to the political centre, an embrace of the council tax freeze, and a slow-pedalling of expensive anti-poverty policies.

Yousaf ’s difficult year looks set to be followed by a hellish general election when his party will lose a barrel-load of seats to Labour.

He will face calls to resign and maybe a leadership challenge from Forbes.

Yousaf is pinning his hopes on a Labour win in the election, leading to a loosening of spending restraints and a modest windfall coming his way.

But everything Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has said on spending suggests the cheque will be permanentl­y in the post.

Even Yousaf’s closest allies concede the next two years will be difficult and he could lose power in 2026.

But they also make the valid point that the First Minister should not be under-estimated.

Yousaf, for all his flaws, is a talented politician who connects with voters when he meets them.

The fact he rose to become FM in the first place shows he has something going for him. He should not be written off but he faces a stiff challenge to stop his party falling apart and losing power altogether.

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 ?? ?? PRessURe MoUnTing Humza Yousaf has endured a nightmare first year in office and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any easier for him
PRessURe MoUnTing Humza Yousaf has endured a nightmare first year in office and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any easier for him

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