Humza Yousaf is right, Scotland's politics are 'toxic'. And the SNP are mostly to blame – Susan Dalgety
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I almost choked on my early morning espresso the other day when I read that the First Minster, Humza Yousaf, had complained in a magazine interview that Scottish politics was “more toxic than ever”. In an interview with Holyrood magazine, he moaned that the atmosphere in the Scottish Parliament is “very different” now to that when he was first elected in 2011. “Anyone who observes our politics would say that the atmosphere here at times is more toxic than it’s ever been,” he asserted.
Well spotted, First Minister. I have been an observer of, at times even a participant in, Scotland’s political life since 1992, and I can’t remember a period so fraught with rancour and division as it is now. At the risk of seeming partisan, may I humbly suggest that one of the main contributing factors to this poisonous culture is the First Minister’s own party? Changes such as social media have helped drive discord, but at its heart is the disunity fostered by the SNP government.
It started in 2014 with the independence referendum which drove Scotland apart, splitting friends and families asunder. And instead of accepting the result – where the majority of Scots made clear they wanted to stay part of the UK – Yousaf’s party has spent the last decade arguing for a second divisive ballot. He’s still at it today.
And during much of her time as First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon snarled at anyone – including sometimes members of the public – who dared question her policies and style of leadership. Consensus and cooperation were dirty words in Sturgeon’s lexicon.
Yousaf is a different person to his predecessor. A friend of mine, who photographed him last weekend with Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera, rang me afterwards. “Your new First Minister, he’s so much more approachable, more human than the lady,” he said. “It was a pleasure to meet him.”
I am pleased that Yousaf has recognised that there is something rotten in the state of our politics. Now it is up to him, as First Minister, to change the culture that infects public life. He could start by ditching his focus on a second referendum and instead concentrate on fixing vital public services like the NHS and helping business and workers to rebuild the economy.