Alastair Dalton: Humza Yousaf made his mark quickly on new job

Humza Yousaf is the new transport secretary. Picture: Neil Hanna

Humza Yousaf is the new transport secretary. Picture: Neil Hanna

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The then international development minister Humza Yousaf seemed an unlikely choice to take over at transport when his name was first mentioned to me by a clearly very well-informed source nearly three months ago.

However, Mr Yousaf has also been quick to point out his transport lineage – the grandson of both a Pakistani bus conductor and a railway conductor in Kenya. He’s also a keen motorcyclist.

The new minister has also taken to the new brief with alacrity from day one – when others have needed weeks to “get their feet under the desk” before emerging in public.

Mr Yousaf has clocked up an impressive early tally of public appearances, meeting victorious trade unionists after CalMac retained its ferry contract, attending an early morning airport photocall – and much retweeting of the traffic news.

In fact, there’s likely to be even more transport on social media now because the minister has attracted 48,000 Twitter followers – far more than anyone in the Cabinet apart from Nicola Sturgeon, and more than all the other Scottish party leaders other than Patrick Harvie of the Greens.

One of Mr Yousaf’s tweets was a photograph showing him co-signing Ms Sturgeon’s nomination for First Minister along with her deputy, John Swinney.

That could be a sign of things to come, because he has already been tipped for the top job himself.

But however soon his next promotion towards that post, from his actions so far it looks like Mr Yousaf will make his own very definite mark on transport.

That could prove an interesting odyssey since Derek Mackay, his predecessor, arrived to find Keith Brown had taken all the high-profile projects like the Queensferry Crossing and A9 dualling with him when he was elevated to infrastructure secretary.

Mr Yousaf will no doubt want more of the limelight, which may happen now that overall responsibility for transport has been transferred to Fergus Ewing – himself a former SNP transport spokesman in opposition – who has become rural economy and connectivity secretary, with various other big issues to grapple with.

The new transport minister will have at least been saved from the political storm that would have erupted if CalMac had not won a new contract – although Derek Mackay took the credit for that, in what he said was his last decision at transport.

However, there’s plenty more potential turbulence ahead, never mind what the summer – and winter – weather has in store for us.

To give an example, the expected opening of the Queensferry Crossing by the end of the year will no doubt be lauded as a great engineering triumph, but what of the consequences?

Many people might believe it will provide more road capacity and will be thinking already of commuting across the Forth.

But if there’s a surge of extra traffic, experts tell me that could cause major problems at junctions in western Edinburgh.

There’s also the prospect of a new bridge full with traffic beside an empty Forth Road Bridge, except for the occasional bus and taxi. What then?

Mr Yousaf has said he “can’t wait to get stuck in” to transport, which bodes well. Good luck, because we’ll be watching closely how it goes.

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