HENRY DEEDES: Yousaf reminded me of someone who’s discovered they’ve been left a castle by a dotty aunt – only to find that it is not only mortgaged to the hilt but festering with termites and dry rot
Some presents come in large boxes, others tied up in cutesy-wootsie pink ribbons. For Scottish Labour and Conservatives, the greatest gift of all arrived three weeks ago dressed in a tartan tie and a tightly-cut three-piece suit.
I refer, of course, to Humza Yousaf, Scottish First Minister and newly anointed leader (as well as now, ahem, acting Treasurer) of that creaking, clattering train that is the Scottish Nationalist Party.
Terse, tetchy, with a record of political failure as long as the River Spey, Mr Yousaf is every unionist’s dream and his arrival at the First Minister’s official residence of Bute House seems certain to kick the independence issue into the long heather for another decade.
Oh, and while we’re at it, did I mention he’s a gasbag extraordinaire? Then man could witter on for Britain if he even believed in such a thing.
Yesterday, he faced First Minister’s Questions barely 48 hours after his party’s treasurer Colin Beattie had been arrested and escorted to the cop shop as part of an investigation into the SNP’s finances. Dome-headed beardie-weirdie Mr Beattie has been released without charge but nevertheless decided to ‘step back’ from his duties. Wonderful that ‘step back’, n’est ce pas? It’s almost as if he’s a Red Cross surgeon taking a well-earned break from the front-line.
Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf (pictured) is every unionist’s dream and his arrival at the First Minister’s official residence of Bute House seems certain to kick the independence issue into the long heather for another decade, writes Henry Deedes
Yesterday Yousaf faced First Minister’s Questions barely 48 hours after his party’s treasurer Colin Beattie had been arrested and escorted to the cop shop as part of an investigation into the SNP’s finances
Recent events have left the Yousaf balloon looking a little deflated. Gone was the laughter and smiles which greeted his coronation last month. All of a sudden he reminded me of someone who’s discovered they’ve been left a castle by a dotty aunt only to find that it is not only mortgaged to the hilt but festering with termites and dry rot.
Leader of the Scottish Tories Douglas Ross got stuck in straight away, demanding the First Minister make a statement on his party’s finances. For a part-time football referee, I must say how surprised I’ve been at how hard Mr Ross goes for his opponents. He may look like one of the figurines from children’s TV classic Button Moon but I detect steel beneath that plasticine.
Mr Yousaf claimed he was happy to answer the question, then served up the usual gloop about ‘focusing relentlessly on the job.’ He launched into a Soviet-style rant, listing all the money he’d just splurged: £15million on school-age childcare. £25million buying back empty properties for the social sector…
Spend, spend, spend! In Westminster, this sort of flannel would have been met with a noisy wall of mockery. Instead, MSPs prefer to just sit in their pine-coloured chairs, like great steamed puddings too bored to emit any hot air.
Colin Beattie, member of the Scottish parliament, arrives back at his house after being arrested by police as part of an investigation into the SNP’s finances
Labour leader Anas Sarwar stands to gain most from the SNP’s demise but may struggle to inspire the Scottish electorate, writes Henry Deedes
But then, as debating chambers go, Hollyrood manages to be both airy and drab, with none of the House of Commons’ suffocating intensity. The mics, the mixing boards, the marigold-coloured carpet: It’s more Crossroads Motel than unforgiving amphitheatre.
READ MORE: Humza Yousaf ‘ties himself in knots over Nicola Sturgeon’: First Minister defends his predecessor and says there is ‘no reason’ to suspend her… but he WON’T speak to her over finances
Labour leader Anas Sarwar then almost decided to join us but not quite. He stood lifelessly, staring into the distance the way a bored pupil at infant school waits for the lunch bell, before summoning the energy to compare Yousaf to ‘Comical Ali’, Saddam Hussein’s former information officer, who was prone to a porkie or two.
Mr Arwar stands to gain most from the SNP’s demise but may struggle to inspire the Scottish electorate. From my viewpoint, he makes Sir Keir Starmer look like a livewire.
The closest thing to entertainment came during a question from Fergus Ewing (SNP, Inverness) who bemoaned the ‘economic masochism’ of Scotland importing gas from America when there remained perfectly good fields in the North Sea which could be brought into operation.
He blamed the influence of the Greens, whom he branded ‘wine-bar revolutionaries.’ Finally the puddings stirred, greeting Ewing’s comments with a welcoming round of applause.
Deputy Presiding Officer Annabelle Ewing, though, didn’t much care for big Fergus’s language. She reminded MSPs that they were ‘required to treat each other with respect.’ Her hostility toward Mr Ewing, it transpired, was understandable. He happens to be her older brother. Possibly all you need to know about Scottish politics right there.
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