Thursday, September 28, 2023

Is there any excuse at all for Humza Yousaf removing the whip from the newly-crowned MSP Of The Year?

Although I think Humza Yousaf should step down in the very obvious interests of both the SNP and the wider independence movement, I'm certainly not someone who will just reflexively oppose something because Yousaf was the person who did it.  In the case of Fergus Ewing's highly controversial suspension from the SNP, there is one nagging doubt I have that might theoretically mitigate in Yousaf's favour, and it relates to the long-standing convention at Westminster that an MP will automatically forfeit the whip if they vote against their own government on a motion of no confidence, or indeed if they abstain on a motion of no confidence without a valid excuse.  Fergus Ewing of course voted in favour of a motion of no confidence in the Green minister Lorna Slater - so is that somehow equivalent to voting in favour of a motion of no confidence in the government?

I don't think it is, actually.  I did make the point repeatedly during the SNP leadership election that the argument that "electing Kate Forbes would be dangerous because SNP MSPs would refuse to install her as First Minister" was a piece of absolute nonsense, because those MSPs would know that abstaining or voting against their elected party leader in the First Minister election is tantamount to voting on a motion of confidence to bring down the SNP government, and they would lose the whip for doing it.  But that's different from the vote on Slater, because the fate of the government really does hinge on the outcome of a First Minister election - if the SNP leader doesn't win it, you get a unionist First Minister who will attempt to form a unionist government.  By contrast, if you vote to remove one low-ranking minister from the government, the same government can simply continue with a new minister.  It's true that the Greens might walk out of the coalition if they were not allowed the ministers of their choice, and therefore the composition of the government might change from SNP-Green to SNP-only.  But that would be a decision made by the Greens, and wouldn't be a direct consequence of the vote.  

So I don't think the logic for suspending Ewing stacks up.  The Slater vote is being used as a convenient excuse to punish him for a wider range of rebellions on matters of conscience that would not in any normal government warrant the withdrawal of the whip.

*  *  *

Thank you to members of the Alba Party who have already nominated me for the positions of Membership Convener and ordinary member of the NEC. There were a flurry of emails yesterday from people receiving acknowledgements of their nominations, so the email address seems to be working and the nominations are being monitored.  I need ten nominations to be on the general NEC ballot, and twenty nominations to be on the Membership Convener ballot.  So far, and by a very rough count that may not be entirely reliable, I reckon I have about sixteen nominations for both positions.  So I should (touch wood) be on the NEC ballot, but it remains to be seen whether I'll get the handful of further nominations required to get on the Membership Convener ballot.  If you're a current Alba Party member and are interested in nominating me, you can find the details HERE.


  1. It's not directly any of my business as I haven't been a member of any political party for thirteen months now. Also, I hold no 'candle' for Fergus Ewing who's always seemed too, small 'c', conservative for my liking.

    Still you're right to raise this James as the matter seems to me little more than a continuation of the spiteful, political sectarianism with which the Sturgeon faction, and it's loyal heirs, run the SNP.

    Humza can dress in shirt sleeves as much as he likes, allow a lot of words on independence, and even speak at a rally or two but nothing of any consequence will be done until the current 'suits' at the top of the party are removed or, much more unlikely, become rational 'independistas' themselves.

  2. I notice that neither Humza Yousaf or Nicola Sturgeon was present for the vote on Fergus Ewing, both on what might be thought to be relatively trivial reasons. Having decided to institute disciplinary action against him I would have hoped that Yousaf (and Sturgeon to a lesser extent now) might have stood up publicly for their actions.

  3. This blog post is the most responsible thing I have read anywhere in approximately three years. Well said, James.

  4. My wife and I will nominate you later today. That's two more you can count on.

  5. The best result for independence on Thursday remains a massive defeat for the SNP. Only then will gutless SNP politicians and ordinary members act against Yousaf and the conservative SNP hierarchy.

  6. From the herald: "Mr Yousaf who did not attend the vote on Wednesday night due to illness ..."

    ... a complete absence of any guts.

  7. Sorry about the delay James but that's two nominations in for both positions. Both of our nominations seem to have gone in okay with no 'mail problems'.

  8. Mr Yousaf seemed to have completely recovered by FM Questions, the day after the vote. Aye, right!

  9. Hot aff the press. For what it’s worth (very little).
    YouGov Westminster voting intention, Scottish sub-sample, field work 26 - 27 Sept.
    Con 19% 9 seats (+3), Lab 27% 22 seats (+21), LibDem 12% 5 seats (+1), SNP 30% 23 seats (-25).
    Very much in contrast to the other September sub-samples
    V O’B