IAIN MACWHIRTER: Humza Yousaf’s incompetence will only help the SNP sink faster

Iain MacwhirterIain Macwhirter in The Spectator

Just don’t call him ‘Useless’. Humza Yousaf’s sister, Faiza, told STV last week of her shock and anger at hearing a hospital porter use the First Minister of Scotland’s ubiquitous soubriquet. Well, she’d better get used to it. Once an image is established in the public mind it’s hard to get rid of it. And it has to be said that his recent performance has been less than entirely useful.

It’s not entirely his fault, I accept that. Yousaf is burdened by the legacy of the nationalist duopoly, Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell, which seems to have run the SNP with all the due diligence of a car boot sale. But having the leader of the party, and one of its longest-serving ministers, seemingly so remote that he didn’t know that the party’s auditors, Johnston Carmichael, had resigned six months ago, and that the party had not been able to find any other accountancy firm willing to validate their finances, is ignorance of a pretty high order. Just as he didn’t apparently know that the SNP had lost thirty thousand members in the last eighteen months. What, me worry?

£110,000 motor-home? Nope, Humza didn’t know anything about this luxurious vehicle that has been rotting quietly outside ex-Chief Executive, Peter Murrell’s, 92-year-old mother’s home for the last two years. He accepts that it was purchased by the SNP, reportedly for use as a battle bus for the 2021 parliamentary elections, but it was news to him until shortly before it was carted away by police. The explanation is that it was required by Covid regulations, but that doesn’t entirely make sense. If the party needed this vehicle as a kind of mobile lockdown HQ, why not do what every other party does and hire a bus for the duration of the campaign? That would have cost a fraction of the purchase price of the never-used glampervan, made by Niesmann+Bischoff whose company slogan just had to be: ‘Breaking all the Rules’.

Like so much else that is happening right now, the motorhome affair is as inexplicable as it is risible. But this is how you destroy a party leader’s credibility: by making him an object of ridicule. It happened to Boris Johnson over the £800 rolls of gold wallpaper used by designer Lulu Lytle to redecorate the Number 10 flat. Then by pointing to the Partygate saga and revelations about civil servants organising loans from businessmen. Individually, these matters were essentially trivial but together they created an image of an administration that didn’t know its derriere from its elbow.

Humza Yousaf is now emerging as a kind of tartan Mr Bean: a well-meaning incompetent lost in a sea of confusion. He always seems to be the last to know what’s going on and then invariably makes the situation worse. Like when he asked a meeting of war-weary Ukrainian refugee women ‘where are all the men?’ And now the National Executive of the SNP, supposedly the party’s ruling body, is now at war with itself with members briefing the press that it is ‘rotten to the core’.

Let’s not even mention the doomed legal action to overturn the Westminster veto on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. Everyone and their dog knows that it isn’t going to succeed; is a waste of public money; is a futile defence of a flawed and deeply unpopular bill. But Humza is blundering on regardless with that hapless smile stapled to his face.

Next comes the deposit return scheme for bottles and cans – another of his commitments under the comic book coalition with the Scottish Green Party. Everyone knows it is dead. The scheme has been boycotted by thousands of small businesses and undermines the rather successful recycling schemes already run by Scottish local authorities. But Mr Bean is letting the hare-brained Circular Economy Minister, Lorna Slater, dig his government ever deeper into this landfill.

Then there is his stalled, billion pound Social Care Service, boycotted by unions and local authorities. Don’t mention the Cal Mac island ferries which seem to break down almost by the week while the hulks of the Glen Sannox and Hull 802 lie unfinished five years late and three times over budget.

Meanwhile the image of the Scottish National party continues to rust away like those unfinished ferries in the nationalised Ferguson Marine shipyard. The party is losing members so fast that Kate Forbes had to deliver an urgent and heart-felt appeal for SNP folk to keep the faith and stay in the party. Her subtext was that Useless isn’t going to be around very long, so just close your eyes and think of Scotland. 
WRITTEN BY Iain Macwhirter Iain Macwhirter is a former BBC TV presenter and was political commentator for The Herald between 1999 and 2022. He is an author of Road to Referendum and Disunited Kingdom: How Westminster Won a Referendum but Lost Scotland.  Top picture: The SNP Cabinet at Bute House.

One comment

  1. Not just Useless but Dumza Youslas.

    Our man it seems knows absolutely nothing.

    Wasn’t there, doesn’t know, wasn’t told, and wisnae him, any similarity with his predecessor is purely coincidental.

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