FMQs: Humza Yousaf accused of ‘failing upwards’ as Nicola Sturgeon defended record of leadership contender

Nicola Sturgeon has launched a stern defence of the record of leadership frontrunner Humza Yousaf as the health secretary was accused of being someone set to “fail upwards” into the job of first minister.

In a fiery session of First Minister’s Questions, the SNP leader was forced to defend the record of Mr Yousaf multiple times, with the Scottish Conservatives stating he should have been “sacked, not promoted”.

Party leader Douglas Ross cited the case of a patient who waited for two-and-a-half days for treatment in Ayrshire at an accident-and-emergency department late last year as he took aim at the Scottish Government’s health record.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The exchange came after leading watchdog Audit Scotland delivered a “damning verdict” on the Scottish Government’s NHS recovery strategy. An Audit Scotland report said Mr Yousaf’s strategy lacked “detailed actions” to allow progress to be accurately measured, and called for greater transparency from the Government.

First Minister Nicola SturgeonFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

The document was published just three days after the health secretary formally launched his campaign to succeed Ms Sturgeon, who announced her resignation last week, as first minister.

“First Minister, why should a health secretary who has failed our NHS now get to fail the whole of Scotland?,” Mr Ross asked, with the First Minister citing the lack of strikes in the health service as an example of Mr Yousaf’s good work.

Mr Ross, however, honed in on the leadership contender’s record, raising his time as transport secretary where he oversaw the ferries fiasco and was caught driving without insurance.

The Tory leader said: “Humza Yousaf is the worst health secretary since devolution, but it looks like he is going to fail upwards. In any other line of work, Humza Yousaf would have been sacked, not promoted. Forget being SNP leader, why is he even still in government?”

Ms Sturgeon said about Mr Yousaf that he was “the only health secretary anywhere in the UK that has managed to avoid a single day of strikes in the National Health Service over this period”. She stressed it was for members of her party to “elect a new leader of the SNP and effectively a new first minister for Scotland”.

But she stated: “Douglas Ross is sounding pretty scared of Humza Yousaf.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also took aim at the health secretary in his clash with the First Minister, saying Mr Yousaf had “failed” and the NHS recovery plan was “more about spin than substance”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“As a result, patient outcomes are getting worse, staff are burnt out and the NHS is going backwards,” Mr Sarwar said.

The Labour leader insisted: “On every single measure, this health secretary is failing to get the NHS back on track. In fact, this is the worst it has ever been.

“So does the First Minister really believe that the man responsible for failing Scotland’s NHS should be responsible for our country?”

Ms Sturgeon again sought to defend the health secretary’s record, saying: “Since Humza Yousaf became health secretary – and this is what Anas Sarwar fails to mention – there have been, I think, three further waves of a global pandemic that have affected health services all across the UK, Europe and the world. That’s not something that can just be ignored.”

Want to hear more from The Scotsman's politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

It's available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.