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The End of Humza Yousaf is the End of the SNP

When Humza Yousaf resigned as the First Minister of Scotland it was hardly a surprise.

As soon as his coalition deal with the Scottish Greens fell through on Thursday, leaving the Scottish National Party (SNP) fighting to secure a minority government, the time-bomb was ticking on Yousaf’s premiership. In 2021, as Health Secretary, Yousaf went viral for falling off a knee scooter in the corridors of Holyrood. Perhaps that was a sign that, three years later, he would fall from the top of the mountain of Scottish politics.


But Yousaf’s failure to cling to power is just the tip of the iceberg. The end of Humza Yousaf rings the death knell of the SNP – and their dream of Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. To understand why, let’s recap the SNP’s rise – and its fall.


The SNP turned the unturnable Labour tide in Scotland by stirring up a desire for Scottish independence. In the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, the SNP romped home with 69 seats.


In 2014, the SNP finally got their wish of a Scottish independence referendum. Just over 15 years prior, Scotland didn’t even have its own Parliament. That’s quite some turnaround.


Sure, they lost. Scotland voted 55% ‘no’ to independence – but such a slim margin suggested it was only a timid ‘no’. Plus, over 84% turnout in any political exercise is almost unheard of. The SNP had rocket-boosted Scottish independence to the forefront of UK politics.


In the 2015 General Election, Labour went from 41 Scottish MPs to just one. Meanwhile, the SNP went from having just six MPs to 56. The SNP turned Scotland nationalist yellow, when its colour had always been a guaranteed Labour red. By hook or by crook, bagpipes, kilts and haggis were firmly back on the menu.


And that is where the problems began. Because it was indeed ‘by crook’.


For two decades, the SNP and Scotland’s hopes for independence rested on the shoulders of Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell – Scotland’s political power couple. Murrell was the chief executive leading the party’s backstage operations, while Sturgeon was leading the charge from the front in the trenches of Holyrood and Westminster.


They transformed the SNP into an election-winning machine. Membership climbed from less than 25,000 in 2013 to over 125,000 by December 2019. The SNP were surfing an increasingly high tide. A second Scottish independence referendum was firmly in the crosshairs of their independence rifle.


Alas, the machine began to break and falter.


In 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Parliament did not have the power to trigger a second independence referendum without Westminster’s consent. And both the Conservatives and Labour said this was a no-go. The wind was knocked out of the SNP’s main bagpipe.


Then in March 2023, completely out of the blue, Nicola Sturgeon resigned as First Minister. What on earth was she thinking? Nobody could understand the reason for Sturgeon’s resignation. It reminded me of when Jacinda Ardern resigned as Prime Minister of New Zealand. After all the hard work, all the popularity, why suddenly call it quits?


The answer landed hot off the press just a few months later when, in June 2023, Sturgeon was arrested as part of a police investigation into allegations the SNP misspent more than £600,000 in donations for the independence campaign. Essentially, supporters donated to the SNP’s campaign – only for Sturgeon’s husband and the SNP’s chief executive, Peter Murrell, to splash the cash on a luxury motorhome.


Fast forward to today – April 2024. Last week, Murrell was charged by police for embezzlement. The SNP have acquired a rather criminal reputation as a result.


With all this going on in the background, Humza Yousaf was never going to succeed. The two main pilots of the SNP’s take off in Scotland jumped ship. From that point on, the SNP’s plane was always nosediving into the ground – along with its hopes for a second Scottish independence referendum. Yousaf was roped in to return the party to its former heights and glory – but he was nothing more than a co-pilot helplessly steering the party to its eventual downfall.


Yousaf has not helped himself one bit, however. Sturgeon’s power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Greens was an ingenious lifeline for the SNP – but Yousaf cut the ties. In doing so, he dismissively waved away Scotland’s key climate change target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030. That’s one way to turn off your Green life support and, with it, many younger Scottish voters.


This feels much more like an obituary than my regular brutal slating, but perhaps that’s a sign of the times in Scotland.


The SNP is dead. They’ve lost their main proprietors – who, as it turned out, were fiddling the figures anyway. And now Sturgeon’s ‘continuity candidate’ has all but launched the self-destruct missiles on the SNP and its hitherto undeniably successful campaign for Scottish independence.


This is a good thing. Scottish independence would not have worked. Economically, the Highlands would have sunk to the seabed. A report from the London School of Economics in 2021 found the combined effect of Brexit and Scottish independence would deal a blow to the Scottish economy two or three times harder than Brexit, and that rejoining the EU would do nothing. It would also reduce average income per person by £2,000 to £2,800 a year.


These days, we blame everything on Brexit. The cost of living crisis is Brexit’s fault, we say. We wouldn’t have thousands of non-EU illegal immigrants rocking up on our beaches if it wasn’t for Brexit, we scream. Even the bad weather is Brexit’s fault, according to mythical folklore. So now imagine what that would look like – but two or three times worse. You’re a fool if you think Scottish independence would be a good thing for Scotland.


To summarise, Humza Yousaf is gone but I’m not surprised. Yousaf’s failure to continue the SNP beyond its ultimately criminal power couple shows the SNP is dead in the water. And the facts and figures show that the SNP’s main goal of Scottish independence would be an absolute disaster for Scotland anyway.


All in all, Humza Yousaf’s resignation has rung the death knell for the SNP and for Scottish independence – but, when you look back at the party’s troubled activities, its downfall has been a long time coming.

Image: Scottish Government

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