Humza Yousaf does his best Justin Trudeau in a public spectacle of embarrassing smarm
Constantly interrupted, with a penchant for buzz words and an inability to give a straight answer, this First Minister put on a comical Q&A
30 March 2023 • 5:37pm
Humza Yousaf promised to unlock Scotland's 'wellbeing economy' CREDIT: REUTERS
From a sketchwriter’s perspective, Humza Yousaf’s opening foray into First Minister’s Questions
was an embarrassment of riches. For everyone else, it was just richly embarrassing.
The trading standards act would have more accurately called the session “First Minister’s Suspensions” as there were so many of them – seven within the first 15 minutes, including an exceptional incident whereby the entire public gallery had to be evacuated, then re-seated, after it emerged a group of schoolchildren had been manhandled out of the chamber along with the usual grotty coagulation of anti-oil protesters. This was local government at its finest.
The session did, however, set a promising tone, for entertainment factor if nothing else. The first suspension came within three minutes – before Douglas Ross had even finished his opening question. He attacked Yousaf for setting up a new “taxpayer-funded minister for independence”, complete with an £98,000-a-year salary, while abolishing key Cabinet posts relating to tourism and social security. Was this really governing for all of Scotland?
The First Minister started as he meant to go on; with an empty platitude. Cosplaying as a kind of Hibernian Justin Trudeau
, he professed his delight at appointing the Cabinet
with “the most number of women
[sic] in it in the history of devolution”, featuring “a number of members under the age of 40
”. Then burst forth an ooze of meaningless smarm that the Canadian parliament could only dream of
; buzz-phrases like “unlocking green potentia
l” and the “wellbeing economy
”. Whatever that means. Yousaf might as well have promised a “marshmallow economy”, a “bollard economy” or a “Loch Ness monster” economy.
Naturally, none of this related to the actual question
. Ross, quite reasonably, accused his opposite number of reading off a script; an accusation Yousaf refuted by grabbing his notes and rummaging through them.
Inevitably, proceedings were suspended after another volley of squawked complaints from the gallery. This was less a parliamentary session and more an elaborate game of Just A Minute; an ever-present ticking clock until the inevitable filibustering by the Thunbergian
Ross made hay by parroting the SNP’s internal critics back at them; a "fish-in-a-barrel" exercise nowadays if ever there was one. A particular target was Yousaf’s recent brutal reshuffle designed to eliminate any last vestiges of talent from the front bench – less a "Night of Long Knives" and more a "Day of the Blunt Sporks".
Ross quoted with glee one SNP source who had referred to departing minister Ben Macpherson as “one of the few non-idiots available”.
Yousaf, by way of response, accused his Tory counterpart of being a “third-rate politician leading a third-rate party”. Ross gave a decent impression of that schoolmaster who’s perpetually not angry – just disappointed. “I really hope the First Minister gets better than this,” he said, oozing insincerity
. As night follows day, this was interrupted by yet another suspension.
Farce comprehensively dealt with, it was up to Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to move onto the more tragic realities of life under the SNP. Here, Yousaf’s ill-starred stint as health minister came back to haunt him. One child, Sarwar pointed out, had been on a mental health waiting list throughout Yousaf’s entire tenure.
All told, the First Minister’s pledge to “unleash and unlock the potential” of Scotland barely survived this initial contact with reality. The comic potential of a Yousaf premiership, however, looks endless.
Let’s hope the people of Scotland can find something to laugh about. Otherwise, on the strength of this first showing, the only other rational response would be to cry