Humza’s reigned over a party in meltdown – and now he’s living on borrowed time, writes GRAHAM GRANT
The countdown to the most important by-election in modern Scottish political history is under way – and the writing is on the wall for the SNP.
Rutherglen and Hamilton West is the seat of former Nationalist MP Margaret Ferrier – or ‘Margaret Covid’, as Nicola Sturgeon memorably called her.
Ferrier – who disgraced herself by breaching coronavirus regulations – was ousted by voters in her own constituency, outraged at her flagrant abuse of the law.
At this Thursday’s by-election, there will be another opportunity for the electorate to deliver its verdict on the SNP – and it is likely to be damning.
Mr Yousaf has been a hopeless minister in every portfolio he has ever held
Shona Robison, the Deputy First Minister, claims that a victory for her party would ‘send shockwaves through Westminster’ – but it would also be a shock for the SNP hierarchs, who are bracing themselves for a less than optimal result.
Either way, Humza Yousaf is living on borrowed time, presiding over a party in meltdown with one of the worst track records of any government at any time, anywhere in the world.
His enemies are lining up against him, including former stalwarts such as Fergus Ewing – an ex-minister who was suspended last week for the crime of speaking his mind, a cardinal error in Nationalist circles.
An avowed enemy of the SNP/Green axis, which he rightly identifies as an electoral liability, Mr Ewing is dismissed at least privately by the separatist top brass as a dinosaur whose time has passed.
But anyone who has been paying attention would have noticed Kate Forbes standing next to Mr Ewing as he delivered a broadside against his bosses – the former Finance Secretary who narrowly lost out to Mr Yousaf in the race to replace Ms Sturgeon.
Douglas Ross, who correctly called the First Minister a ‘danger to Scotland’, predicts a backbench rebellion lies ahead – possibly led by Ms Forbes – as disillusioned Nationalists begin talks with the Tories about how to stop some of the SNP/Green Government’s policies.
Shona Robison claims victory will send shockwaves through Westminster
It’s that poisonous coalition of chaos which has helped to sow the seeds of disharmony within the SNP, putting an abrupt end to years of clone-like obedience.
While locked in a partnership with a crew of hardline Marxists, Mr Yousaf seeks to convince us that he’s a recent convert to the cause of economic growth – and presumably expects to be taken seriously.
He threatens further ‘progressive’ tax hikes in a country where anyone who has the temerity to want a better life for themselves and their families is either weighing up getting out now before the next assault on their bank balances – or has already gone.
To placate the eco-zealots propping up his enervated regime, Mr Yousaf and his colleagues wax lyrical about the supposed virtues of heat pumps – even though they’re expensive, inefficient and entirely unsuited to the vast majority of homes in the most densely populated areas of Scotland.
And this lunacy is being forced upon us at a time when most Scots are battling sky-high household bills and mortgage payments.
Together with their predecessors, Mr Yousaf and his group of time-servers and placemen have taken incompetence to vertiginous new heights.
The relatively straightforward task of assembling a couple of ferries has now cost the taxpayer almost as much as the £400million Scottish parliament building – itself one of the most controversial public sector construction projects in history.
On any measure, the SNP has utterly failed to live up to its promises of reform, most strikingly on education and health – two key public services which are now effectively on life support.
Drug addicts are dying in the street – and the death toll is the highest in Europe.
But the only big idea is to plough more than £2million a year into a clinic where they can inject their own heroin and cocaine under medical supervision, consigning them to a grim cycle of dependence, as NHS waiting lists continue to spiral.
The only growth industry in Scotland apart from the public inquiry – get-rich-quick schemes for lawyers, even if the conclusions they reach are routinely ignored – is quango-land, which flourishes as your taxes creep ever higher to support its fat-cat overlords.
Mr Yousaf said he was determined to honour the legacy of Ms Sturgeon, though the immediate stumbling-block was that no one could work out what it was, including him (and possibly even her).
That ambition rapidly turned sour as Operation Branchform got under way, with detectives probing allegations of £600,000 of donations missing from party coffers – an investigation which led to the arrests of Ms Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell, the SNP’s former chief executive.
Both were subsequently released without charge pending further enquiries, but Mr Yousaf has been left to mop up the mess – though in reality he has contributed to it.
He was tasked with steadying the ship but instead has overseen a mutiny – and each day we see fresh evidence of his party’s true colours.
Last week, Nationalist MP Lisa Cameron accused her own colleagues of leaving her suffering panic attacks after she endured months of ‘group bullying’. She revealed the full extent of the mental health trauma she has suffered as a direct consequence of being ignored and sidelined by her fellow MPs.
Ms Cameron said she was ostracised after suggesting the party should be supporting the harassment victim of shamed MP Patrick Grady after the former chief whip was found guilty of sexual misconduct by the Westminster standards watchdog – and suspended from the SNP for six months.
For years, the SNP and its online acolytes presented it as a modern, progressive, 21st-century political movement.
The truth is much uglier, and now it’s tearing itself apart in a way that would have been unthinkable only months ago.
Mr Yousaf has been a hopeless minister in every portfolio he has ever held, including justice, where he let out hundreds of criminals during the Covid pandemic, only for scores of them to re-offend – committing attempted murder, serious assault, robbery and sex offences.
In the vital health brief, he brought his reverse Midas Touch into play again, and is remembered chiefly for falling from his knee-scooter as he rushed to the Holyrood debating chamber – then, in a fit of pique, chiding those who dared to mock him on social media.
Margaret Ferrier was ousted by voters in her own constituency
It is one of the great mysteries of our time that Mr Yousaf has found himself in the highest office in the land, where he remains hopelessly out of his depth.
When Scotland needs a dynamic, visionary reformer, it has been saddled with a dud – whose own party is starting to lose confidence in him.
His only philosophy, like the former First Minister, is to cling on to power at all costs, while trying to con SNP voters that there is still a route to independence – a dream that died some time ago.
Thursday may represent the end of the road for Mr Yousaf – and the beginning of the end for the SNP hegemony after 16 years of failure and division.
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