Humza Yousaf faces crunch week as Alba rivals issue demands for support

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Scotland’s embattled first minister Humza Yousaf is entering a crunch week to shore up his position as rival pro-independence party Alba issues demands for its support. 

The Scottish National party leader has rejected a suggestion from Alex Salmond’s breakaway party for an electoral pact to prop up his administration, according to a person familiar with Yousaf’s thinking quoted by the BBC.

But Alba is offering other terms in exchange for securing Yousaf’s premiership, as he faces votes of no confidence in his leadership and his government expected this week, following the collapse of power-sharing between the governing SNP and the Greens.

Salmond said Ash Regan, the only Alba MSP, would bring “reasonable proposals” on issues such as independence and jobs to crucial talks with Yousaf that, if accepted, would help him “get out of a tight political corner”.

“She [Regan] will take with her some very reasonable, positive proposals which, hopefully, if the first minister accepts them, will help him get out of a tight political corner,” Salmond said on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show.

Regan last year quit the SNP for Alba in protest at former first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s planned legislation concerning self-identification on gender. At the time, Yousaf characterised Regan’s defection as “no great loss”.

The BBC reported an official close to Yousaf ruling out a proposal previously advanced by Alba for a single pro-independence candidate to stand in each Scottish constituency.

Yousaf is battling to save his political career after he tore up a power-sharing deal with the Greens, who have since said they would back a no-confidence motion brought against him by the Scottish Conservatives.

The Labour party is hoping to take advantage of the turmoil to win a string of seats from the SNP in the general election expected this year, and so boost its chances of forming the next UK government.

Ian Blackford MP, former Westminster leader of the SNP, appealed to the Scottish Greens to reverse their decision to support the vote of no confidence in Yousaf, asking them to “think very carefully”.

Blackford apologised for the way the power-sharing agreement with the party was ended. “We could have handled this in a different way,” he said on the Kuenssberg show. “The first minister has apologised for the hurt that [Green co-leaders] Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater feel.”

The SNP and Greens could continue working towards pursuing common causes in areas such as climate and poverty reduction, he added.

Salmond said that what was in Scotland’s interest would be “to get independence black to [the] top of [the] agenda, move away from culture wars that are so divisive, and get parliament on to the people’s agenda of education, health, housing and, above all, investment in key industries in the energy sector”.

Yousaf’s decision to ditch the power-sharing agreement with the Greens was an attempt to reset his leadership with a tilt towards the centre ground, after pressure from colleagues who believed the coalition government’s progressive agenda would damage the SNP at the general election, expected this year, and at Holyrood polls in 2026.

Greens co-leader Harvie’s refusal to accept the findings of the Cass review, which criticised the use of puberty blockers for transgender children, triggered the collapse in relations between the SNP and the Greens. SNP insiders said the issue would have forced other votes of no confidence that would have upended the coalition.

The Greens set events in motion this month when they called for a vote on the future of the power-sharing agreement after the government ditched its 2030 emissions reduction target.

Scottish Labour has also brought a no-confidence motion in the Scottish government, as opposed to Yousaf as first minister, in a bid to force an election.

The SNP has 63 seats against 65 held by opposition parties, meaning that Yousaf would need to secure the vote of at least one opposition MSP to shore up his position and prevent his government collapsing.

Even if he survives the votes, many observers believe his authority has been shaken irrevocably.

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