Scotland’s Humza Yousaf resigns as country’s leader

Published April 29, 2024
Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf (R), followed by his wife Nadia El-Nakla, arrives at Bute House ahead of a press conference, in Edinburgh, on April 29. — AFP
Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf (R), followed by his wife Nadia El-Nakla, arrives at Bute House ahead of a press conference, in Edinburgh, on April 29. — AFP

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf resigned on Monday, further opening the door to the UK opposition Labour Party to regain ground in its former Scottish heartlands in a national election expected later this year.

The 39-year-old politician said he would also stand down as leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) but would stay on until his successor was found.

Yousaf quit as head of the SNP after a week of chaos triggered by his scrapping of a coalition agreement with Scotland’s Greens.

He then failed to secure enough support to survive votes of no confidence against him expected later this week.

Resigning a little over a year after he replaced Nicola Sturgeon as first minister and SNP leader, Yousaf said it was time for someone else to lead Scotland’s devolved government.

The SNP’s fortunes have faltered over a funding scandal and the resignation of Sturgeon as party leader last year. There has also been infighting over how progressive its pitch should be as it seeks to win back voters.

Caught between defending the progressive record of the coalition government and some nationalists’ demands to jettison gender recognition reforms and refocus on the economy, Yousaf could not strike a balance that would ensure his survival.

The SNP is losing popular support after 17 years of heading the Scottish government. Earlier this month, polling firm YouGov said the Labour Party had overtaken the SNP in voting intentions for a Westminster election for the first time in a decade.

Labour’s resurgence in Scotland adds to the challenge facing UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party, which is lagging far behind Labour in UK-wide opinion polls.

The Scottish parliament now has 28 days to choose a new first minister before an election is forced, with former SNP leader John Swinney and Yousaf’s former leadership rival Kate Forbes seen as possible successors.

A Scottish election will be held if the SNP cannot find a new leader to command support in parliament.

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