Humza Yousaf has spent a year going through the motions as First Minister – Jackie Baillie

Thanks for all your presents to Labour but I won’t be singing Happy Birthday, Jackie Baillie tells the First Minister

Humza Yousaf is now a year in the job as First Minister, but with the state of the country under his watch, I’ll not be singing him Happy Birthday. It has been a year marked by pratfalls, self-sabotage and chaos. It’s been clear from the beginning that Yousaf is a weak leader, out of his depth and struggling to keep a divided party and government on the road.

Nothing much he does, despite whatever lever he pulls, does much to deliver for Scotland. There’s not one public service I can think of that has actually improved thanks to his administration. Many of our public services are now weaker thanks to the SNP. For a former Health Secretary, the health stats and outcomes under his government’s watch are not just shaming, they’re verging on dangerous.

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He’s a former Transport Secretary presiding over a nationalised shipyard where the ferries aren’t finished, nevermind the broken pledge on when the A9 will be dualled. It’s time to phone for a roadside recovery service to rescue his stalling political career.

Humza Yousaf has been First Minister of Scotland for just over a year (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Humza Yousaf has been First Minister of Scotland for just over a year (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Humza Yousaf has been First Minister of Scotland for just over a year (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Having become SNP leader as the continuity candidate, he’s proved to be a liability. On every measure, in every sector, from education to crime, from health to equality, Scotland is going backwards. Officially, he has no vision for the future. Audit Scotland concluded: “The Scottish Government’s ten-year economic strategy currently lacks collective political leadership and clear targets.”

Baffling SNP election strategy

All political parties are prone to back-stabbing but with Yousaf, the attacks are more obvious. His former Cabinet colleagues Alex Neil and Kate Forbes are wielding the sgian-dubh in public. Forbes, licking her wounds after the vicious backlash against her from Sturgeon supporters, cannot bring herself to credibly endorse the victor. Neil dismisses Yousaf’s renegotiation strategy for a referendum as nonsense. No one, least of all the FM, believes an electoral reverse for the SNP will amount to a referendum mandate.

His election campaign, telling Scots Labour is irrelevant but also saying there’s no point in voting for us because Keir Starmer has already won, is baffling. Pretending the battle is with the Scottish Tories, when the real political drama in Scotland is the contest with Labour is a deflection from reality. I guess on that point we should thank him for losing the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election in such spectacular style.

Of course, he’s First Minister too, and leader of the nation. In that, he does have the fortunate distinction of being the only SNP First Minister not to be arrested, albeit the first was cleared of all charges and the last has proclaimed her innocence. Yousaf has been dealt a bad hand, with a campervan and a blue tent being the least of it. But when it comes to personal integrity, he has let himself down.

Unforgivably, he failed to sack Michael Matheson and remained silent while the former Health Secretary lied to the public over his £11,000 holiday iPad bill. This was not a case of party first, country second. It was pals first, public second.

For going through the motions without any purpose, Yousaf deserves no congratulations on his first anniversary. For the gifts he keeps giving the Labour party, I suppose we ought to be thankful.

Jackie Baillie MSP is Scottish Labour’s deputy leader



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