Scotland Leader Mulls Resignation Before Confidence Vote

(Bloomberg) -- Scotland First Minister Humza Yousaf is preparing to step down on Monday after concluding he wouldn’t survive a confidence vote triggered when he pulled the plug on a power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Greens last week, a person familiar with the matter said.

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Yousaf is due to hold a press conference in Edinburgh at noon on Monday to discuss his future, the first minister’s office said.

Senior members of his Scottish National Party were informed of Yousaf’s decision over the weekend, the Times reported, without saying where it obtained the information. John Swinney has been approached to become interim first minister in the event of Yousaf’s departure, though the former SNP leader is reluctant to step up because of personal reasons, the newspaper said.

Read more: Why Scotland’s Political Crisis Could Shape Future of the UK

Yousaf’s position had become increasingly tenuous after he decided to end his party’s deal with the Greens — agreed after the SNP fell one seat short of a majority in the 2021 Scottish parliament election — saying it had run its course.

That left the 39-year-old facing a confidence vote in his leadership called by the Conservatives and backed by other opposition parties, as well as another in his government called by Labour. If he does step down, it would trigger a 28-day deadline for the Scottish parliament to agree on a new first minister.

The question is whether the SNP itself can agree on a candidate and, given its minority in parliament, persuade another opposition party to support a new leader. If that proved impossible, a parliamentary election would be necessary.

Labour’s deputy national campaign coordinator Ellie Reeves told Sky News on Monday that Scottish voters should get a say in what happens next. “No one voted for Humza Yousaf and given all of the chaos, I think there should be an election up in Scotland.”

But the Greens indicated they’d be willing to support a minority SNP administration, though not one with Yousaf as its leader.

“It depends on trust, and he personally has broken trust,” Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said on BBC Radio 4. “I don’t think there’s anything that Humza Yousaf will be able to say that can restore the trust that he’s broken.”

Ahead of a UK-wide election expected in the autumn, Yousaf had been trying to rebuild the SNP’s image around stable government following a year of turmoil after long-time leader Nicola Sturgeon stepped down.

Styling himself as a “continuity candidate” helped him beat off rivals. but it also meant he inherited some unpopular policies forged by Sturgeon in conjunction with the Greens that alienated parts of the SNP and the wider electorate.

Tensions with the Greens came to a head when the government scrapped a plan to cut carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 after concluding it was unachievable.

--With assistance from Michael Sin, Virginia Van Natta and Alex Morales.

(Updates with press conference in second paragraph.)

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