Saturday, 3 Jun 2023

Humza Yousaf to make first major policy statement after torrid start

Humza Yousaf admits ‘challenging’ time for SNP

Humza Yousaf will today set out the priorities for his premiership in his first major policy statement at Holyrood since he took over from Nicola Sturgeon. The First Minister, who narrowly won the bruising SNP leadership election last month, will use a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday to set out what he wants his government to deliver over the next three years.

Mr Yousaf’s speech comes as he has faced a difficult start to his premiership with a police probe into the SNP finances plunging the party into crisis.

The nationalist party had already been battered by the vicious leadership contest.

The statement, which will be accompanied by a policy paper, is expected to fall under three key themes of equality, opportunity and community – building on the Scottish Government’s legislative agenda in the Programme for Government and the Bute House Agreement.

Ahead of the speech, Mr Yousaf said: “These challenging times we live in call for a fresh vision of how we face them.

“My cabinet has considered how we can build a better future for Scotland and the outcomes necessary to achieve that.

“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.”

Since being made First Minister around three weeks ago, Mr Yousaf said, his government had “tripled our support for households struggling with high energy bills with our £30 million fuel insecurity fund, announced an additional £25 million to help the north east become the net zero capital of the world, and reinforced our commitment to supporting families with a £15 million investment in free high-quality school age childcare”.

He said the measures would “make a real difference” and had come as a response “to the challenges presented by our ongoing recovery from the Covid pandemic and a cost-of-living crisis exacerbated by Brexit and the UK Government’s economic mismanagement, as well as climate change impacts and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”.

The Scottish Tories urged Mr Yousaf to “turn his back” on Ms Sturgeon’s “policy failings”.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: “Humza Yousaf has been quick to jettison his ‘continuity candidate’ tag as ever more shocking stories have emerged about how the SNP was run by Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell.

“So I hope he uses his statement on Tuesday to turn his back on his predecessor’s policy failings too – including those for which he, as health secretary, is directly responsible.

“Humza Yousaf tacitly acknowledged his own failings by adding ‘NHS recovery’ to his successor’s job title. But we also need to see, finally, a workable recovery plan for Scotland’s health service that will address the enormous and unacceptable waiting times – because the previous one clearly isn’t fit for purpose.

“He also has to ditch the SNP’s unaffordable and bureaucratic plans for a £1.3billion National Care Service and redirect the money to councils, who are better placed than ministers to determine the local care needs in their area.

“Our economy is struggling and at a competitive disadvantage because the SNP has made Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK. The First Minister needs to rule out any further income tax rises and extend business rates relief to the same level that applies south of the border.

“The Deposit Return Scheme, in its current form, is a disaster waiting to happen for Scottish businesses. Rather than merely giving small firms a year’s grace, Humza Yousaf must pause DRS entirely until the fundamental flaws in it are resolved.

“Rural Scotland has been shamefully ignored by this SNP government, so we need the First Minister to finally introduce the long-awaited Agriculture Bill to provide clarity on farm payments.

“Humza Yousaf has the chance to break free from years of SNP failure, if he is bold enough to do so. But, given his grievance-seeking legal challenge over the GRR Bill, the signs are not good.

“While the First Minister is distracted by manufactured constitutional battles and the civil war tearing his party apart, the Scottish Conservatives will focus on the public’s real priorities – tackling the cost-of-living crisis and NHS waiting times.”

Mr Yousaf’s speech comes as the start to his leadership was thrown into turmoil with the investigation into the SNP finances which has seen a dramatic police raid of the party headquarters and home of former chief executive Peter Murrell, which he shares with his wife Ms Sturgeon.

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