First Minister to resign

First Minister Humza Yousaf's speech at Bute House, Edinburgh, on Monday 29 April 2024.

Good afternoon.

Last week I stood here to announce the ending of the Co-operation Agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party, the Bute House Agreement, and that we would seek to govern as a minority Government.

I made that decision as the Leader of the SNP, as I believed ending the Bute House Agreement was the right one for the Party I lead, and I still do believe that to be the case. But most importantly I believe it was the right decision for the country.

My hope was to continue working with the Greens, in a less formal arrangement, as we moved into a new phase of minority Government.

Unfortunately, in ending the Bute House Agreement, in the manner that I did, I clearly underestimated the level of hurt and upset I caused Green colleagues.

In order for a minority Government to be able to govern effectively and efficiently, trust, when working with the opposition, is clearly fundamental.

And while a route through this week’s Motion of No Confidence was absolutely possible, I am not willing to trade my values and principles or do deals with whomever, simply for retaining power.

Therefore, after spending the weekend reflecting on what is best for the government and for the country that I lead, I have concluded that repairing our relationships across the political divide can only be done with someone else at the helm.

I have therefore informed the SNP National Secretary of my intention to stand down as Party Leader and ask that she commences a leadership contest for my replacement as soon as possible.

In order to ensure a smooth and orderly transition, it is my intention to continue as First Minister until my successor has been elected, particularly as the Parliament will be debating some incredibly important legislation in the coming days and weeks.

I cannot tell you what an honour it is being the First Minister of the country I love, the country I am raising my family in, and the only country I will ever call home.

As a young boy, born and raised in Scotland, I could never have dreamt that one day I would have the privilege of leading my country.

People who looked like me, were not in positions of political influence, let alone leading Governments when I was younger.

We now live in a UK that has a British-Hindu Prime Minister, a Muslim Mayor of London, a Black Welsh First Minister, and, for a little while longer, a Scots-Asian First Minister of this country.

For those who decry that multiculturalism has failed across the UK, I would suggest that the evidence is quite to the contrary, and that is something we should all celebrate.

I have had the honour of serving in Government for almost 12 years, in a variety of roles. Whatever position I held during my time in politics, I have always been guided by my values.

As First Minister I am incredibly proud to have a fair tax system, the most progressive in the UK, where those who earn the most, contribute the most.

It will always be my core belief that in a country as rich as ours, wealth must be far more evenly distributed.

I have no doubt at all that whoever takes over from me will continue the Scottish Government’s drive to reduce child poverty. I am proud that through our actions an estimated 100,000 children are expected to be lifted out of poverty this year.

I also hope, that as a country, we can be really proud of the strides that we have taken to tackle inequality, prejudice and discrimination, but let us also acknowledge that far too often, in our country, hatred continues to rear its ugly head.

In a world where every issue seems to descend into a toxic culture war, it is often the most marginalised in our society who bear the brunt.

As politicians, of all political parties, we are afforded and privileged to have a platform. Each and every one of us must resist the temptation of populism at the expense of minorities, particularly in a general election year.

I have often said that as a minority myself, my rights don’t exist in a vacuum, they are only protected because the rights of everyone are protected.

And from the backbenches of the Scottish Parliament I will continue to champion the rights and the voices of those who are often not heard, be they at home or overseas, such as those suffering the most horrific humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, as the world watches on.

Independence feels frustratingly close, but the last few miles of any marathon are always the hardest.

We have run this race as a team – and I will now prepare to pass the baton to a successor who I am absolutely certain will lead us over the finish line.

And I will tell you today, what I will say to that successor.

First Ministers get to meet countless inspirational people in communities across Scotland, working to make life better for those around them.

First Ministers get to see first-hand many of the exciting businesses and industries that will power Scotland’s future.

And whenever First Ministers set foot beyond Scotland’s shores – no matter where they go in Europe or around the world - they encounter friends and admirers of our nation.

If only every person in Scotland could be afforded the opportunity of being First Minister for just one day, on the very next day, it is my belief they would for vote for independence with both their head and their heart.

To my fellow MSPs of all political persuasions, next week is a crucial milestone, we mark 25 years of devolution.

We have an electoral system that is designed for no political party to have an overall majority.

Devolution’s founding fathers and mothers, rightly in their wisdom, believed that no one loses out by politicians sharing wisdom, sharing counsel and sharing ideas.

The converse is also true.

That is why I would make an appeal to colleagues from across the political spectrum, that while Government of course must act in good faith, so must our opposition, and be prepared to collaborate with us, not just oppose for opposition’s sake.

The only people who suffer as a result of such an impasse are the very public that we seek to serve.

Politics and politicians, not unreasonably I’m afraid, have often been maligned. However, I truly believe that when we get it right, and for the most part we do, we are a force for good that can transform people’s lives for the better.

To my colleagues in the opposition, regardless of political party, I genuinely do wish you well. I bear no ill-will and certainly bear no grudge against anyone.

Politics can be a brutal business. It takes its toll on your physical and mental health; your family suffer alongside you. I am in absolute debt to my wonderful wife Nadia, my beautiful children and my wider family for putting up with me over the years, I am afraid you will be seeing a lot more of me from now. You are truly everything to me.

And although, of course, I am sad that my time as First Minister is ending, I am also grateful and blessed for having the opportunity afforded to so few – to lead my country, and who could ask for a better country to lead than Scotland.

Thank you.

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