Humza Yousaf must now concentrate on running the country – Scotsman comment

Given Humza Yousaf and his Cabinet have been in office for three weeks, it’s probably for the best that their plans for government were long on high ideals and vague commitments, but short on detail.

Two of the biggest decisions were about controversial policies – the proposed ban on alcohol marketing and the deposit return scheme (DRS) for bottles and cans – that will not be going ahead as planned. There will be a rethink on alcohol advertising, while the date for the start of the shambolic DRS has been pushed to next year. We had called for both plans to be rethought: this is the correct decision.

However, there was no sign of flexibility or compromise over the Gender Recognition Reform Bill or plans for highly protected marine areas, another policy stirring up trouble for the SNP. At a time when it is rocking from one revelation to another about its party finances and the ongoing police investigation, Yousaf and co simply have bigger fish to fry – like the cost-of-living crisis, the state of the NHS and social care, and problems in Scotland’s schools. Expending too much bandwidth on peripheral issues risks disaster for the country and the SNP.

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There were some signs of hope that Yousaf recognises this. His “three missions” to be achieved by 2026 were: “tackling poverty and protecting people from harm”; “a fair, green and growing economy”; and “prioritising our public services”. That all sounds good and, as if anticipating critics’ use of the SNP’s poor track record in government, the First Minister stressed: “I will have a laser focus on delivery for the people of Scotland.” In his foreword to the document spelling out his vision for Scotland, the word “independence” was “only” mentioned twice, and fairly briefly.

We remain to be convinced that Yousaf or his Cabinet have the ability to turn life around for the many people in Scotland who are struggling to get by. His time as a minister does not inspire confidence, as defeated leadership rival Kate Forbes memorably pointed out. However, the fact is he is the First Minister and must work with whatever talents he possesses.

For the sake of everyone, he must ditch policies that do more harm than good, along with the divisive rhetoric, and concentrate on running the country.



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