Alba’s Westminster leader says no decisions made over saving Humza Yousaf

Alba’s Westminster leader says no decisions made over saving Humza Yousaf

The Alba party’s Westminster leader has said the party is “not saying we are going to save” Scotland’s First Minister, who faces no confidence votes this week.

Amid the tight parliamentary arithmetic at Holyrood, the vote of the Alba party’s sole MSP Ash Regan could be crucial to Humza Yousaf’s political survival.

The First Minister is attempting to build bridges with the other political leaders at Holyrood, inviting them to talks at his official residence.

However Alba’s Westminster leader Neale Hanvey told Times Radio that while the party is willing to listen to what Mr Yousaf has to say, it has “come to absolutely no firm conclusion” about whether to support him.

Ash Regan
Alba Party MSP Ash Regan has written to Mr Yousaf (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Hanvey said: “We’re not saying we are going to save Humza Yousaf. The situation that Humza Yousaf has got himself into is a matter of his own making. And, you know, there is a range of views around whether he will be able to tough it out or whether he’s already toast.”

He added: “We’ll wait to see what the First Minister comes back with. You know, we have an open position at the moment.

“We’re willing to listen to what he has to say, but we have come to absolutely no firm conclusion about whether we’re going to support him or not.”

The Alba party leader, Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond, said a key line of any discussion with Mr Yousaf would be the idea of reviving the Scotland United strategy – which would see a single pro-independence candidate stand in each Scottish constituency.

He told the Sunday Times: “If you remember the Scotland United idea from last year which Humza just ignored, which was very popular with the Yes groups and amongst SNP supporters.

“It would be difficult to revive it in full now because obviously candidates have been selected [for the general election], but it could be revived in part, or there could be an understanding for the Scottish elections in two years’ time. So a discussion along these lines, so it’s a menu of independence options.”

He added: “We are asking to put independence back as the top priority of the government, which clearly it isn’t now.”

Mr Yousaf has written to the leaders of Scotland’s political parties to seek “common ground”.

He hopes to hold separate meetings with each group at Bute House in Edinburgh to discuss how they can “contribute constructively”, while acknowledging that there are “strong feelings” about the upcoming confidence votes.

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

Mr Yousaf terminated the powersharing deal between the SNP and Scottish Greens on Thursday.

He is now facing a vote of no confidence, tabled by the Scottish Conservatives, while Scottish Labour has tabled one of no confidence in the Scottish Government as a whole.

Mr Yousaf spoke to Sky News on Saturday, where it was put to him that given the lack of support from the Greens, Ms Regan could be crucial to his political survival.

He said: “That would be really disappointing if that is the Greens’ position.

“As I say, I’ve reached out to them, they are saying publicly that they’re going to support a Conservative motion against – a First Minister, an independence government.

“I think that would be, I think, a poor choice to make. So of course I have written to Ash Regan, as well. I look forward to speaking to her too.”

The ruling body of the pro-independence Alba Party is holding an emergency meeting over the weekend where Ms Regan, a former SNP MSP, will set out “the areas of importance to the people of Scotland that she will seek movement on”.

She has written to Mr Yousaf to offer him an “early opportunity” to discuss three clear priorities – Scottish independence, women’s rights and the future of the Grangemouth oil refinery.

In his letters, Mr Yousaf emphasised that the Scottish Parliament has previous experience of minority administrations which had delivered benefits for “people, communities and businesses”.

Scotland power sharing agreement
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross indicated he is in little mood for compromise (Lesley Martin/PA)

He said: “I recognise the strong feelings in relation to the confidence debate our parliament is set to have next week.

“Notwithstanding that, I am writing to all Holyrood party groups to ask them to meet me next week, in separate meetings, to discuss their concerns and indeed priorities, in a hopefully constructive spirit.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who lodged a motion of no confidence in Mr Yousaf, said: “This is a humiliating and embarrassing letter, in which Humza Yousaf is begging to be allowed to keep his job.

“His belated abandonment of the Bute House Agreement with the toxic Greens – which he was backing just two days before he finally decided to pull the plug – does nothing to undo the immense damage it has caused.”

Scotland power sharing agreement
Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said it is time for the First Minister to go (Lesley Martin/PA)

The Scottish Greens said they would respond formally to the First Minister in due course, but otherwise their position is unchanged.

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

Leaders of the other parties have not yet issued responses to the letters.

Speaking on Friday, Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar said: “I am more than happy to engage with people of all parties, but it is clear that Humza Yousaf is out of time.”