Former rival Kate Forbes backs Yousaf’s leadership as FM seeks way forward

Humza Yousaf’s former leadership rival Kate Forbes has urged colleagues to back him in the upcoming votes of no confidence, as the First Minister fights for his political future.

With two no confidence votes looming next week, the First Minister has said he is not resigning and is writing to other parties in the Scottish Parliament – inviting them to talks to find a way forward.

Mr Yousaf terminated the powersharing deal between the SNP and Scottish Greens on Thursday, leading to the smaller pro-independence party to turn against him.

Another SNP MSP who has previously rebelled from the party whip in votes at Holyrood, Ivan McKee, also said the party is uniting behind Mr Yousaf.

Ms Forbes, who came second in the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon last year, said recent events had been “an embarrassment for every parliamentarian in every party”.

Humza Yousaf visit to Dingwall
Kate Forbes stood against Mr Yousaf in the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon (Jane Barlow/PA)

Writing in The National, Ms Forbes said: “It is easy to be loyal to a party when times are good and the party is ahead in the polls.

“But you find out what real leadership is – and what real loyalty looks like – when times are tougher and that is why I will back the SNP and the First Minister through next week’s fight and I urge everyone in our party and everyone who cares about Scotland to do the same.”

Former SNP minister Mr McKee was asked if Mr Yousaf would resign if he lost the confidence vote.

He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme: “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.

“The vote of confidence, while not legally binding would be a clear indication of the will of the parliament.

“And if you lose a vote of no confidence then clearly you don’t have the confidence of the parliament.

“But I think, as I said, the First Minister’s using his political skills to negotiate to make sure that he doesn’t lose that (vote)”.

Scotland power sharing agreement
The Scottish Greens turned against the First Minister (Lesley Martin/PA)

He said the First Minister is confident he can do a deal to win the vote, saying: “At the moment everybody in the SNP is focused on making sure we win that vote of no confidence.”

Both Ms Forbes and Mr McKee had previously voiced doubts about the Bute House Agreement, which brought the Greens into the Scottish Government in 2021.

Amid the tight parliamentary arithmetic at Holyrood, the vote of Alba Party Holyrood leader – and former SNP MSP – Ash Regan could be crucial to Mr Yousaf’s political survival.

She is one of the political leaders Mr Yousaf will be writing to ahead of the confidence votes in Holyrood.

In a BBC interview on Friday, Ms Regan said she had not spoken to Mr Yousaf since the leadership contest last year. She said she is still considering how to cast her vote.

She said: “I think that potentially some of the things he said about me when I left to go to a different political party last year probably shows that it’s always wise to have that level of professional courtesy to people that you work with.”

In October last year, Mr Yousaf said Ms Regan’s defection to Alba was “no great loss”.

On Friday, Mr Yousaf was adamant he would win the confidence votes but said he would not rule out an early Holyrood election.

He told the PA news agency: “When the vote comes I fully intend to win.”

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.