Humza Yousaf has been accused of ‘tying himself in knots’ after rejecting calls to suspend Nicola Sturgeon.
The First Minister yesterday jumped to the defence of his predecessor despite growing uncertainty about her political future after footage emerged showing she tried to suppress discussion about the SNP’s finances.
Mr Yousaf said there was ‘no reason’ to suspend her or for her to stand down as an MSP, and he also confirmed that he would not seek to speak to her directly about the party’s finances because of the ongoing police probe.
Critics said yesterday Ms Sturgeon should not ‘go into hiding’ to avoid scrutiny after it was confirmed she will not attend the Scottish parliament in person this week.
Humza Yousaf (pictured in Dundee, Scotland yesterday) has been accused of ‘tying himself in knots’ after rejecting calls to suspend Nicola Sturgeon
The First Minister yesterday jumped to the defence of his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon (pictured yesterday outside her Glasgow home) despite growing uncertainty about her political future after footage emerged showing she tried to suppress discussion about the SNP’s finances
Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: ‘Humza Yousaf is getting himself tied in knots over this issue.
‘How can he refuse to countenance suspending Nicola Sturgeon, when he has not even spoken to her about the SNP’s murky finances and is vowing not to do so? A cynic might say that he doesn’t want to ask questions in case he gets uncomfortable answers.
‘The obvious thing to do would be to suspend Nicola Sturgeon unless and until she is cleared. That is the precedent the SNP set in the cases of Michelle Thomson and Natalie McGarry.’
He added: ‘The former First Minister and her former chief executive husband should not get special treatment when they have such serious questions to answer.’
Video footage leaked to the Sunday Mail of a March 2021 meeting of the SNP’s national executive committee showed Ms Sturgeon furiously insisting that her party’s finances had ‘never been stronger’.
She also told members of the ruling body to ‘just be very careful about suggestions there are problems with the party’s finances, because we depend on donors’.
It also emerged that she personally refused to open up the SNP’s finances to extra scrutiny by rejecting calls from senior officials to appoint a fundraising manager.
Asked about whether he anticipated any prospect of Ms Sturgeon resigning as an MSP, Mr Yousaf said: ‘No, no, and she would have no reason to resign at all.
‘Her husband has been questioned under caution – admittedly that’s a significant event.
‘But we are far past the time, I think, of judging what a woman does based on what happens to her husband.’
On calls for her to be suspended, he said: ‘No, not at all. I see no reason for that whatsoever.’
Ian Blackfor (left) was likened to former Iraqi information minister ‘Comical Ali’ (right) after claiming the SNP is ‘solvent at the moment’ and insisting a £107,620 loan to the party from former chief executive Peter Murrell was ‘normal’
An SNP source has said Ms Sturgeon was likely to stand down ‘sooner rather than later’ amid the controversy about party finances. Pictured: Nicola Sturgeon leaves her home in Glasgow and climbs into a waiting car on Sunday
It was confirmed yesterday that Ms Sturgeon will only take part in Scottish parliament proceedings remotely this week in order to ‘ensure the focus is on the new First Minister’.
Last month, she revealed she had started driving lessons to allow her more ‘personal freedom’, telling a BBC Sounds podcast: ‘It’s just part and parcel of the next phase of life.’
The Scottish Tories urged her not to use remote working as an excuse to ‘go into hiding’.
Responding to speculation that Ms Sturgeon is set to quit as an MSP, a spokesman for the former SNP leader said: ‘Nicola Sturgeon made clear when she resigned as First Minister that it is her intention to remain as the SNP MSP for Glasgow Southside, and that remains the case.
‘In order to ensure the focus of this week is on the new First Minister setting out his priorities for the people of Scotland, Ms Sturgeon has always intended to participate remotely and intends to return to Holyrood in the near future.’
Asked about talks with Ms Sturgeon, Mr Yousaf said: ‘Nicola and I will of course speak but what we won’t speak about is the police investigation. Nicola and I both know that we can’t speak about that, nor would it be appropriate for us to speak about that.’
Asked if he would speak to her about any aspect of the SNP finances, he said: ‘I just think that while a live police investigation is going on, it would be inappropriate to do. I think that would be, as I say, by any measure an inappropriate thing to do.’
Pressed on whether he would ask Ms Sturgeon why the SNP’s auditors quit, he said: ‘In some respects these are legitimate questions, absolutely, to ask but I’m very focused on the future.
Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon returns home after an apparent 2 hour driving lesson at her home in Glasgow yesterday
‘I’m very focused on getting auditors in place right now. Mr Yousaf defended the comments Ms Sturgeon made about party finances in the 2021 video, saying it was prior to the May 2021 Holyrood election, when the party would have spent substantial amounts of money.
He said: ‘You fundraise in advance for an election, you tend to spend a fair bit of money during an election, and after an election, of course, is when you want to make sure that you can address any cashflow issues that you might have as a result of that big spend during an election.
‘So I wasn’t particularly disturbed at all by the video in the way that some of our opponents seem to be.’
The Daily Telegraph quoted an SNP source saying Ms Sturgeon was likely to stand down ‘sooner rather than later’ amid the controversy about party finances.
BLACKFORD’S BLUSTERING ‘LIKE AN SNP COMICAL ALI’
By Tom Eden Deputy Scottish Political Editor
Ian Blackford was ridiculed yesterday after downplaying the financial chaos engulfing the SNP.
The Nationalist MP was likened to former Iraqi information minister ‘Comical Ali’ after claiming the SNP is ‘solvent at the moment’ and insisting a £107,620 loan to the party from former chief executive Peter Murrell was ‘normal’.
Police are investigating allegations of ‘missing’ donations raised to fight a referendum campaign, with officers raiding the home of Mr Murrell and his wife Nicola Sturgeon.
Mr Murrell was questioned and released without charge pending further investigation. It then emerged that the SNP’s auditors had dropped the party as their client last September – a fact that was apparently only told to new leader Humza Yousaf last month.
Ian Blackford (pictured in October 2022) was likened to former Iraqi information minister ‘Comical Ali’ after claiming the SNP is ‘solvent at the moment’ and insisting a £107,620 loan to the party from former chief executive Peter Murrell was ‘normal’
Mr Blackford was the SNP Westminster leader when accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael severed its decade-long working relationship with the party.
Yesterday he claimed he was told ‘towards the tail end of last year’ about the firm walking away, having previously said he had forgotten when he had first found out.
Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy compared the Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP to Saddam Hussein’s propagandist, who in 2003 denied that invading US tanks were in Baghdad as journalists watched them a few hundred yards away.
He said: ‘Ian Blackford is fast resembling an SNP version of Comical Ali with his ridiculous assurance everything is fine when everyone can see the opposite is true. For the second day running he has insisted that the SNP’s treasurer had been the victim of “selective reporting” when he was quoted directly stating the party was struggling to balance its books.
‘Blackford was again evasive when asked about when he found out the SNP’s auditors had resigned and when he informed his successor as Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, of this.
‘This secrecy and bluster has to stop. Ian Blackford, like Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell, must be totally up front about all aspects of this mounting scandal.’
Speaking to the BBC yesterday, Mr Blackford, who was ousted by Mr Flynn in December, tried to paint the financial scandal engulfing the SNP as a ‘media frenzy’ and denied the party was ‘broke’.
Asked whether he informed Mr Flynn about the auditors stepping down, despite the looming deadline to submit the SNP accounts by May 31 – an issue that could cost the party’s Westminster group £1million in public funding – Mr Blackford again dodged the question.
He suggested his deputy, SNP business convener Kirsten Oswald, could have been responsible for informing Mr Flynn and ‘a very firm and detailed briefing was given to Stephen and his team’.
He added: ‘All appropriate information to do with the finances of the Westminster group has been handed over to those that have responsibility for that.’
The SNP did not respond to questions about when Mr Flynn discovered the accountants had refused to do his party’s audited accounts.
PUT GROWTH FIRST … AND DON’T TALK INDY, FM URGED
By Michael Blackley Scottish Political Editor
Humza Yousaf has been urged to leave out any mention of independence and put economic growth first when he sets out his key priorities to MSPs.
The First Minister will give his first major policy speech in the Scottish parliament today, outlining the issues he wants to focus on.
Ahead of the address, he promised to bring a ‘fresh vision’ to the job after succeeding Nicola Sturgeon. But opponents urged him to focus on the NHS and the economy rather than pushing for independence.
Pamela Nash, chief executive of the Scotland in Union campaign group, said: ‘It is time for him to move on from the obsession with breaking up Britain. Instead, he should be making clear that his priorities are reviving the NHS, improving education, growing the economy and addressing the cost of living crisis.
‘These are crucial areas which, due to the SNP’s overwhelming focus on Indyref 2, have been forced to play second fiddle for far too long.’
Humza Yousaf (pictured yesterday at the STUC Congress in Dundee) has been urged to leave out any mention of independence and put economic growth first when he sets out his key priorities to MSPs
Ms Sturgeon said when she became First Minister that education was the issue she wanted to be judged on and promised to close the attainment gap. But she was then accused of failing to deliver on the promise. Ahead of his speech to MSPs, Mr Yousaf said: ‘These challenging times we live in call for a fresh vision of how we face them.’
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium urged Mr Yousaf to restore the level playing field with the rest of the UK on business rates, give clarity on the next steps for the Deposit Return Scheme and pause any plans for measures which increase the amount of red tape for companies.
A policy paper will set out how he will seek to deliver on three key themes of equality, opportunity and community.
Andrew McRae of the Federation of Small Businesses said: ‘The most immediate priority from a small business perspective must be a pause on the Deposit Return Scheme.
‘In its current state it simply is not fit for purpose.’
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: ‘I hope he uses his statement to turn his back on his predecessor’s policy failings… including those for which he, as health secretary, is directly responsible.
‘We need to see, finally, a workable recovery plan for Scotland’s health service that will address the enormous and unacceptable waiting times.’
The First Minister said: ‘My cabinet has considered how we can build a better future for Scotland. Through a determined focus on reducing poverty and strengthening public services, seizing the opportunity to build a growing and green wellbeing economy through the net zero transition and supporting business, and reaffirming our commitment to equality, inclusion, and human rights in everything we do.
‘We will do so using the powers of devolution to their maximum, whilst making the case that as an independent nation, we can do so much more to make Scotland a wealthier, fairer, and greener country.’
Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11983715/Humza-Yousaf-ties-knots-Nicola-Sturgeon.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490&rand=1270