Yousaf issues unity appeal as he warns divided parties ‘don’t win elections’

Humza Yousaf is set to take part in his first SNP conference as party leader (Jane Barlow/PA)
Humza Yousaf is set to take part in his first SNP conference as party leader (Jane Barlow/PA)

A divided SNP cannot win elections, Humza Yousaf has said in an appeal for party unity.

The party leader has faced significant challenges during his six months in the top job, with high-profile MSPs openly calling for an end to the Bute House Agreement which sees the Scottish Greens in government.

Veteran MSP Fergus Ewing recently had the SNP whip suspended after he voted against Greens minister Lorna Slater in a vote of no confidence.

Mr Yousaf’s former leadership rivals Kate Forbes and Ash Regan have also made their opposition to the power-sharing agreement known, particularly around climate policies, delays to dualling the A9 and highly protected marine areas (HPMAs).

Speaking to the PA news agency at Bute House ahead of his first party conference as leader this weekend, Mr Yousaf urged the SNP to “come together” or risk making the independence cause “weaker”.

In an appeal to SNP members, he said the party’s stance should be respected regardless of whether they voted for him, Ms Forbes or Ms Regan in the leadership contest.

The Scottish First Minister said: “The old maxim is true: divided parties simply don’t win elections, so we have to heal the divisions that exist.

“I don’t care if you voted for Kate or Ash, whether they agree or disagree with the Bute House Agreement, let’s come together and respect the party.

“That’s the party that elected me as leader, it’s the party that, of course, overwhelmingly backed the Bute House Agreement with the Greens as well.

First Minister’s Questions
Fergus Ewing had the party whip suspended for one week for voting against the Government (Jane Barlow/PA)

“So, unity is going to be important.”

Mr Yousaf also said “ditching” the Bute House Agreement was not a “logical conclusion” to the divisions emerging within the party hierarchy, given it was backed by a majority of the party.

He said: “The resolution is to remind people that if we are not united as a party, then that cause of advancing independence is weaker.

“Every single one of my colleagues will tell you that I’ve made it very clear to them that you can walk through my door at any point and have a discussion about policy where there’s disagreement.”

Mr Yousaf will address SNP members in Aberdeen on Tuesday as he brings the party’s conference, which is due to start on Sunday, to a close.