Yousaf rules out pact with Salmond’s Alba party

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Humza Yousaf, and his SNP-led Scottish government, face no confidence votes
By James Cook
Scotland editor

Scotland’s first minister is ruling out an electoral pact with Alex Salmond’s Alba party, BBC News has been told.

Mr Salmond suggested Alba could support Humza Yousaf in a confidence vote if the SNP co-operated to maximise the number of pro-independence parliamentarians.

A source close to Mr Yousaf said the SNP leader would not agree to such a deal at Westminster or Holyrood.

“An electoral pact with Alba is a fantasy,” said the source.

The first minister is fighting for his political future after ejecting the Scottish Greens from his government.

He faces confidence votes in his government and his leadership, which could come as soon as Wednesday.

The SNP has 63 seats in the Scottish Parliament while the opposition parties have 65, meaning Mr Yousaf would be defeated if the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, and the sole Alba MSP, Ash Regan, all voted against him.

There is no constitutional requirement for Mr Yousaf to resign if he loses a personal confidence vote but the political pressure to do so would almost certainly be irresistible.

Alex Salmond would like an electoral pact that would see a single pro-independence candidate stand for election

If the government loses, MSPs would have 28 days to agree by majority on a new first minister, or automatically trigger a Scottish parliamentary election.

At present, the next Holyrood election is due in 2026 while a Westminster general election is expected this year.

The Scottish Green Party continue to insist that they “have no confidence in Mr Yousaf,” and will vote against him after co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie were dismissed as ministers in the SNP-led government.

On Friday, at a hastily-arranged event in Dundee to announce extra funding for affordable housing, the first minister told me he understood why the Greens were so angry but insisted he had not “meant to upset them.”

The event was supposed to be the first in a series of policy announcements designed to reset Mr Yousaf’s administration in an attempt to stay in office.

A second policy announcement was expected on Sunday but BBC News has been told that this will not now happen, an indication that his survival strategy is already in danger of being blown off course.

Ash Regan was a candidate in the SNP leadership election and later defected to Alex Salmond’s Alba party

An alternative approach for Mr Yousaf than reaching out to the Greens would be to secure the vote of Ms Regan, who defected to Alba last year, seven months after being defeated in the SNP leadership contest.

Her support would be enough for him to carry on thanks to the casting vote of the presiding officer which, by convention, would be for the status quo.

Ms Regan has set out a series of demands in return for her support including changes to gender policy, a sharper focus on Scottish independence and government intervention to preserve the future of the Grangemouth refinery on the Firth of Forth.

Earlier, the Sunday Times reported that Mr Salmond, who led the SNP government in Edinburgh from 2007 to 2014, favoured reviving a proposed Alba strategy which would see a single pro-independence candidate stand in each Scottish constituency.

The former first minister had told the newspaper that the idea “could be revived in part,” for the general election “or there could be an understanding for the Scottish elections in two years’ time.”

On social media the SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, Pete Wishart, was scornful, writing: “There is simply no way the SNP could ever give any concession to the unelectable Alba Party.

“For good reason they have never won an election to anything and if we were to even think of entertaining them they would quickly bring us down to their level.”

‘Humiliating and embarrassing’

The source close to Mr Yousaf agreed, saying of the idea: “Don’t be ridiculous. I mean what are we supposed to do, stand down our sitting MPs?”

Nonetheless, the first minister has written to the other Holyrood party leaders to seek “common ground”.

He hopes to hold separate meetings at his official residence, Bute House in Edinburgh, to discuss how they can “contribute constructively.”

The Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who lodged the motion of no confidence in Mr Yousaf, said: “This is a humiliating and embarrassing letter, in which Humza Yousaf is begging to be allowed to keep his job.”

Speaking on Friday, the leader of Scottish Labour, Anas Sarwar, said he was more than happy to engage with other parties, although he added “it is clear that Humza Yousaf is out of time”.

Follow the latest news on Humza Yousaf’s future and that of his government with Laura KuenssbergWatch live on BBC One and iPlayer from 09:00 BST on SundayFollow latest updates in text and video on the BBC News website from 08:30Viewers can send questions or comments to @bbclaurak on x or instagram and email kuenssberg@bbc.co.uk 28 October 2023

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