Humza Yousaf’s reign of error

Scotland’s bungling clown prince made a career out of failing upwards.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Deputy editor

Topics Politics UK

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‘I didn’t mean, I didn’t intend to make them as angry as they clearly are.’ These words of Humza Yousaf’s are a fitting epitaph for his short-lived reign of error as Scotland’s first minister. Yousaf, who has just resigned, was talking to the National about the Scottish Greens and their furious reaction to his tearing up of the SNP-Green coalition agreement that gave him his majority in Holyrood. After he booted the Greens out of government last week, he was apparently surprised to learn that they were more than a little miffed and would no longer be willing to prop him up politically. His attempt to cut his former partners out of power ended up handing them the power to decide his fate. His move backfired in classic Humza fashion. It was a final reminder of his reverse Midas touch.

The first minister’s resignation today brings to an end a long career of failing upwards. It’s not for nothing that he has earned the nicknames Humza the Bungler, Humza the Hapless and, most infamously, Humza Useless. As his rival for the SNP leadership, Kate Forbes, set out in excruciating detail last year, Yousaf has made a hash of every ministerial role he has ever held. ‘You were a transport minister and the trains were never on time, when you were justice secretary the police were stretched to breaking point, and now as health minister, we’ve got record-high waiting times’, she said during a leadership debate on STV. A stunned Yousaf had nothing coherent to offer in response.

But Yousaf hasn’t just screwed up on delivering the basics – he has also made a thousand gaffes per minute along the way. As transport secretary, he was caught driving a car without insurance. As health secretary, he got into a bizarre row with a nurse, in which he accused her of patronising him. When he was on the campaign trail during the SNP leadership race, he asked a group of female Ukrainian refugees: ‘Where are all the men?’ Apparently, he had forgotten the war that had brought those refugees to Scotland in the first place.

Don’t mistake Yousaf’s clownishness for anything approaching a sense of humour. The outgoing FM is notoriously thin-skinned and snaps viciously at anyone who dares to draw attention to his haplessness. Back in 2021, a video went viral showing Yousaf speeding through the corridors of the Scottish parliament on a knee scooter (he was recovering from a sports injury). He seemed to pick up speed when he noticed the television cameras. His aide struggled to keep up with him. Then, he took a tumble and got splattered on the floor. When a BBC reporter tweeted the video with the caption, ‘The health secretary, Humza Yousaf, does not appear to be having a good day at work’, Yousaf barked back and tried to shame the journalist into taking the clip down. His inability to take even the lightest of mockery was emblematic of an authoritarian streak that has defined his time in office.

Indeed, perhaps his most spectacular own goal was his championing of the draconian Hate Crime Act. When he introduced the bill as justice secretary back in 2021, he ignored warnings that it would eviscerate free speech and overwhelm the police, as officers would be forced to investigate spurious complaints. Funnily enough, when the new hate law came into force earlier this month, Scotland’s most-complained-about ‘hate criminal’ turned out to be none other than Humza Yousaf himself. As Gillian Bowditch observed in this weekend’s Sunday Times, ‘This is a man who, if challenged to a duel, would shoot himself in the foot’.

The hate complaints against Yousaf all related to an infamous speech he gave in Holyrood in 2021, in which he complained about a lack of diversity in the upper echelons of Scottish life. He reeled off a list of senior Scottish jobs, punctuating each with a venomous screech of the word ‘White!’. Any reasonable, level-headed observer would expect a country that is 96 per cent white to have most of its top jobs occupied by white people. Yet in the swivelled eyes of Humza Yousaf, this was a slam-dunk demonstration of Scotland’s alleged ‘systemic racism’ problem.

That speech was an early warning of how wokeness would come to cloud the soon-to-be first minister’s judgement. Like his predecessor, Nicola Sturgeon, Yousaf has been a loud cheerleader of the trans-rights agenda. Even after it emerged that a male rapist had been housed in a women’s prison – a revelation that helped to bring an end to Sturgeon’s career – Yousaf tried in vain to revive the SNP’s hated gender reforms. The feminists who had warned that violent and depraved men would take advantage of self-ID had been vindicated. But the arrogant first minister still would not listen.

Well, at least Humza’s bungling has finally caught up with him. His resignation today will come as a relief to the vast majority of Scots. His arrogance, his authoritarianism and his clownish propensity for fumbling the bag will not be missed.

Fraser Myers is deputy editor at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics UK


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