Humza Yousaf in the words of his own SNP colleagues

SNP has a 'tremendous mess' to clean up says Russell

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Amid problems in Scotland’s health service, a cost of living crisis and the SNP’s failure to get the country any closer to independence, top of Humza Yousaf’s to-do list will be unifying his party after a bitter leadership battle. Unfortunately for him, after weeks of infighting, his colleagues will have a hard time rowing back on attacks aimed at him and his record in government. 

The most bitter attacks levelled at him came from his opponent Kate Forbes. 

During one television debate, Mrs Forbes launched an astonishing attack on Mr Yousaf, accusing him of repeated failure in his various Scottish government jobs.

“Humza, you’ve had a number of jobs in government. When you were transport minister the trains were never on time. When you were justice minister, the police were strained to breaking point.

“And now as health minister, we’ve got record-high waiting times. What makes you think you can do a better job as First Minister?”

The attack by Kate Forbes was so brutal the Scottish Tories wrote a letter to her asking for permission to use the debate footage in a political attack ad. 

His other opponent, Ash Regan, claimed the SNP membership exodus could continue if Mr Yousaf were to win. 

Asked by STV whether she believed more members could leave if Humza Yousaf continued the party’s “slow progress towards independence”, she replied “I think that is possible”.

She also attacked both her opponents’ campaigns as “wishy washy”.

Attacks on Mr Yousaf weren’t limited to his two rivals, however. 

MSP Christine Grahame accused the new SNP leader of being someone who “takes credit for others’ work” and said he avoids taking responsibility for mistakes”.

Mrs Grahame also said that, unlike her preferred candidate Kate Forbes, Mr Yousaf isn’t respected across the chamber in Holyrood. 

“I’ll tell you something: she is respected in that parliament – across the chamber – in a way that Humza Yousaf is not”

Johanna Cherry MP also joined in with the attacks on Humza Yousaf, accusing him of having an unfair advantage because he had the “party machine” behind him.

“It’s no secret that the party machine is behind Humza and not behind Kate and Ash. The majority of parliamentarians who have declared are behind Humza. 

“We’ve already had a couple of cases of people wrongfully using the party’s internal mailing system to support Humza.”

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Michelle Thompson MSP said a Humza Yousaf victory would be seen by members as “an establishment transfer of power – to carry on with the status quo – rather than allowing our membership the freedom to make a healthy democratic choice”.

Mrs Thompson, who backed Kate Forbes, also tweeted that a victory by Mr Yousaf or Mrs Regan would lead to “accelerated decline” of the party. 

Former SNP MSP Alex Neil said “the last thing the party needs is Continuity!”

He also tweeted, “If Humza wins seats like Airdrie and Shotts will go back to Labour” and warned it “would be electoral suicide for the SNP to vote for Humza”. 

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