Humza Yousaf’s trip to the Harry Potter studios near London was designed as a treat for his 12-year-old step-daughter, but ended up being front-page news in the Scottish Sun. “Harry Potter and the Invisible Health Chief,” quipped the headline, along with mocked-up pictures of the Health Secretary as the boy wizard, Nicola Sturgeon as Hermione Granger and John Swinney as Ron Weasley.
Scottish Tory chief whip Stephen Kerr described the excursion as “unbelievable and terrible judgement”, adding “I imagine Mr Yousaf will be hearing a few unforgivable curses when he returns to his colleagues in Holyrood”.
However, Yousaf has refused to apologise, arguing that the “most important job I have is being a good father, step-father and husband to my wife and kids. In the last seven months they’ve had virtually no time from me... My family don’t see me much at all, and while they understand why, it is difficult for us all, so I won’t apologise for giving them the very limited time I do.”
And that seems a perfectly reasonable response. We cannot demand ministers abandon their loved ones and spend every waking hour at their desk. That would be cruel to them, lead to rapid burnout and, as a result, bad decisions. It is also completely unrealistic – no one would want the job if those were the conditions.
The half-joking nature of the Sun’s coverage and also Kerr’s comments perhaps suggest that they regard the issue as just a bit of fun. But given it is widely recognised that the detrimental effects of a political career on family life are a problem for our democracy, discouraging some from serving as an MSP, this is making light of a serious issue.
It is also simply unfair to Yousaf; the odd family trip is not evidence that he is failing to work hard enough.
However, given reports suggesting Covid Recovery Secretary and Deputy First Minister John Swinney has also been on a break, they could perhaps have done better to avoid a diary clash.