By Charlie Kimber
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2903

SNP in chaos after Yousaf quits before crucial votes

The latest tumult in the SNP is not some short-term blip
Issue 2903
Humza Yousaf in a church illustrating a story about the SNP crisis

SNP former first minister Humza Yousaf (Picture: Humza Yousaf/Flickr)

Scottish first minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Humza Yousaf resigned on Monday after triggering a deep political crisis by shifting his government sharply to the right.

Yousaf said on Monday he “was not willing to trade my values and principles, or do deals with ­whoever to retain power.”

But Yousaf’s entire crisis has been about an unprincipled drive right wards. He has followed the same path as Keir Starmer—­dumping anything that sounds radical to fit in with the ruling class and its media.

Yousaf last week ejected the Scottish Greens from his cabinet.  He tore up the August 2021 Bute House Agreement and announced a “reset”.

That was code for ­dumping ­environmental targets, ­back‑­pedalling on trans rights and embracing the fossil fuel industry.

Fergus Ewing is one of his MSPs who never liked any involvement with the Greens. He ridiculously claimed, “Green ‘policies’ would put about half the population out of work. “They wanted to close down our oil and gas sector, the chemical industry, shut down fish farming.”

Yousaf might not have used these words, but he has bent to these sentiments.  The SNP will now elect a new leader and try to win a majority in parliament for them.

Yousaf only just defeated Kate Forbes for the post last year and she is likely to be a strong contender again. She is against same‑sex ­marriage and abortion.

The Greens were horrified by their exclusion. The party’s leaders were quite happy to ask its members to continue with the government alliance earlier this month.

This was even though the SNP scrapped plans to reduce carbon emissions in Scotland by 75 ­percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

For the Greens, keeping ­ministerial seats and feeling important easily trumped political principles.  That has set off an internal revolt for the Greens too.

The Herald newspaper reported, “Rebels have demanded co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater go and there’s also been calls for the deselection of all Green MSPs.

“Rebels are furious at the ­handling of the Bute House Agreement. They say the party should have left government before being pushed, calling the events ‘humiliating’. They also accuse the leaders and MSPs of selling out the party’s values for power.”

Yousaf underestimated the ­backlash to his move and was set to face two no confidence votes this week. One in Yousaf himself and another and another against the entire government.

With 63 out of 129 seats in the parliament, the SNP is two votes short of an outright majority. It previously relied on the seven Green votes in the event of a ­confidence vote.

The Scottish Greens said they would vote to axe Yousaf. To survive as first minister, Yousaf needed the backing of Ash Regan, the only Alba Party MSP. Alba is the party of former SNP leader Alex Salmond. It’s a more pro-corporate, transphobic and right wing version of the SNP.

Reagan demanded a retreat over trans rights, such as implementing the Cass Review, and more cash to keep fossil fuel corporations sweet. But Yousaf couldn’t concede that and, realising he was about to lose a no ­confidence vote, he jumped first.

The latest tumult is not some short-term blip. The SNP dithers, defers to the British government and retreats on what is supposed to be its main objective—independence—and is therefore more open to internal upheaval. 

Nicola Sturgeon went as leader in June last year, probably because she knew a crisis was coming. Peter Murrell, the SNP’s former chief executive and Sturgeon’s husband, was charged in connection with the embezzlement of funds from the SNP last week.

When Murrell was first arrested last year, police searched the house he shares with Sturgeon near Glasgow and the SNP headquarters in Edinburgh. 

Police also seized a camper van, which can retail for more than £100,000, from outside the Dunfermline home of Mr Murrell’s mother. The Niesmann and Bischoff vehicle was seized by police the same morning that Murrell became the first senior party figure to be arrested in the finance probe.

British nationalists and unionists are delighted that the SNP is reeling. It diverts attention from the democratic outrage carried out by the Tories and the Supreme Court in denying an independence vote when the Scottish parliament wanted one.

There is still widespread support for breaking up the British state. But the SNP’s electoral prospects look dire. Polls suggest it could lose up to half of its MPS in a general election. A recent survey showed Labour ahead of Yousaf’s party for the first time since the independence referendum in 2014.

One factor that could partly offset its slide is Yousaf’s pro-Palestine position, while British Labour backs Israel’s genocide. Another is the SNP’s opposition to Trident nuclear missiles, while Starmer wants more nukes and more military spending.

But the SNP offers no alternative to poverty, a failing NHS, gathering environmental horrors or any of the other effects of capitalism. It’s a moth-eaten vision of what Starmer’s Labour would be like.

The SNP’s crisis should underline the need for a defiant independence movement that isn’t afraid of strikes and confronting the British state. All Under One Banner has called a demonstration for independence next Saturday. It assembles at 11.30am at Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow.

And socialists have to be at the forefront of supporting and extending all the battles over pay, climate action, and against racism. We need anti-capitalist and socialist politics, not various hues of nationalism and pro-business policies.

Amid the swirl at the top, the key immediate focuses should be continuing and deepening the Gaza agitation and supporting working class revolt. Scottish councils are making massive cuts and are poised to offer hundreds of thousands of workers a 2 percent pay rise—well below inflation.

A fightback over that is one example where people can be more than spectators of what happens in the ministerial offices.

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