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Humza Yousaf resigns as First Minister

It was announced at midday today that First Minister Humza Yousaf has resigned but will remain in place until a new First Minister is appointed. This turn of events was initiated when he announced last Thursday that the Bute House Agreement was to end and ejected the Scottish Greens from government.  Votes of no confidence tabled by the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour swiftly followed, effectively signalling the end of the road for Mr Yousaf. He tried to gather support from Alba’s Ash Regan and the Scottish Greens and sent letters to all opposition parties pleading for everyone to work together. Unfortunately for the usually combative Mr Yousaf, his tack towards conciliation came a little too late and nobody offered him their backing.

We are expecting a leadership battle now, with John Swinney, Kate Forbes and Jenny Gilruth all being mentioned as potential candidates in the leadership contest. The SNP’s former leader and Deputy First Minister John Swinney could be a safe pair of hands to help steer the SNP back on track and he has a lot of supporters in the party. Given that he lives in a rural area and his constituency is Perthshire North, he has a good understanding of current rural issues and will no doubt provide stability to the party. He ruled out running for leader after Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation, but he may very well run this time.  Kate Forbes is also a strong candidate, with a rural constituency in Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch. She narrowly lost out on the leadership position to Humza Yousaf last year. Given her track record and experience on the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee, she should have a better understanding of the issues facing rural Scotland. Jenny Gilruth has also been suggested as a contender for the FM post. She is the current Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, and her constituency is in Mid Fife and Glenrothes. Lastly the Airdrie and Shotts MSP and Health Secretary Neil Gray has been suggested as a potential continuity candidate.

All potential contenders will need to gather support from current MSPs, and it will be interesting to see who the Scottish Greens will back as a suitable candidate, if anyone at all. But given how personally the Scottish Greens took to being ousted from Government last week, it is safe to say this may not be the smooth running process the SNP are hoping for. When there is a majority government in place, the procedure of choosing the next FM is a formality, however this is not the case currently with SNP holding 63 seats, Scottish Conservatives hold 31, Scottish Labour 22, Greens 7, Lib Dems with 4, 1 for the Alba Party and 1 MSP with no party affiliation. To succeed, an SNP candidate would need to attract at least two votes from outside the party.

Parliament will have 28 days to decide on a new First Minister. If MSPs cannot reach an agreement, then parliament must be dissolved, and a new election called.

The next 28 days will be fascinating in Scottish politics. We will provide further updates as this new chapter unfolds and candidates are formally announced.  

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