First Minister facing vote of no confidence after powersharing deal axed

Scotland’s First Minister is facing a vote of no confidence after the powersharing agreement which gave his party a majority at Holyrood collapsed dramatically.

The Scottish Conservatives confirmed they will lodge a vote of no confidence in Humza Yousaf – with Tory leader Douglas Ross branding him “weak” and a “failed First Minister”.

That came after an emergency meeting of the Scottish Cabinet on Thursday morning, where Mr Yousaf terminated the powersharing deal his party had with the Scottish Greens with “immediate effect”.

The Bute House Agreement had given the SNP a majority at Holyrood, and in the wake of its collapse the Tories sought to heap further pressure on the First Minister.

During First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Mr Ross told MSPs: “I can confirm today that on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives I am lodging a vote of no confidence in Humza Yousaf.

Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie
Scottish Green co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie are no longer in Government (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“He has governed in the SNP’s interests and not in Scotland’s interests. He is unfit for office.”

He added that with the Bute House Agreement scrapped: “Shouldn’t this be the end of the road for this weak First Minister?”

If a vote of no confidence is passed, it would mean a majority of MSPs no longer have confidence in the leadership of the First Minister – and would put Mr Yousaf under huge pressure.

The vote, however, would not automatically end Mr Yousaf’s time in office.

Speaking to journalists at a briefing following First Minister’s Questions, a spokesman for Mr Yousaf refused to say if he would quit if he lost the vote, describing the question as “hypothetical”.

The SNP leader himself accused the Tories of game playing, insisting the powersharing deal with the Greens had “served its purpose” and had lasted 19 times longer than Liz Truss’s premiership.

Mr Yousaf went on to warn Mr Ross the Tories would be “judged very poorly” for playing “political games”.

The Bute House Agreement was signed when Nicola Sturgeon, centre, was first minister in 2021 (Lesley Martin/PA)

“If he wants to put our record and his party’s record on the line, let’s do that.

“There’s a general election coming this year and I can guarantee you the electorate will give the Conservative Party an almighty thumping, show them the door, and they deserve nothing less.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar challenged the First Minister to “end the circus and call an election” in Scotland.

He said: “The people of Scotland can see that the SNP have lost their way. They’re weak, divided, incompetent and putting party before country.”

Less than two hours earlier, the First Minister had insisted ending the Bute House Agreement – which brought the Greens into government for the first time anywhere in the UK – was a “new beginning” for the SNP at Holyrood.

The decision, his spokesman later said, was taken on Wednesday morning, just over 12 hours after Mr Yousaf had told the PA news agency he hoped Green members would back the deal at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of the party being planned for next month.

The deciding factor is believed to have been the decision of some Green members to push for the EGM vote and upend the stability the deal had previously provided.

The Greens accused Mr Yousaf of “political cowardice”, with the move meaning co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater lose their ministerial positions in the Scottish Government.

Following First Minister’s Questions, the co-leaders said their MSPs will now consider how they will vote on any no confidence motion.

Mr Harvie said: “The First Minister has, I think tragically, caved to the right wing of his party.

“I think that’s bad for Scotland, it’s bad for the Government, it’s bad for him.

“The First Minister needs to command a majority in the Scottish Parliament. The Bute House Agreement was a way of achieving that.”

Mr Sarwar also made clear Labour does not have confidence in the First Minister.

The SNP will now operate as a minority administration at Holyrood – with Mr Yousaf himself accepting this could be “tough”.

Lorna Slater
Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater fiercely criticised Humza Yousaf in the wake of his decision (Andrew Milligan/PA)

All three have been frequent critics of the Bute House Agreement, with Mr Harvie – in a terse question in Holyrood – further asking which of them the First Minister can now rely on for a majority in Parliament.

The First Minister thanked the Green co-leaders for their work in Government, but said it is “time for the SNP to govern as a minority Government”.

The end of the Bute House Agreement came amid growing tensions between the two pro-independence parties – with the Greens left furious after the Scottish Government last week abandoned a key climate change target.

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf now faces a vote of confidence at Holyrood (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

The Greens had been planning to ballot their members on the future of the agreement at the EGM, but Mr Yousaf called time on the deal before that could happen, declaring it had “served its purpose”.

During a press conference at Bute House, his official residence in Edinburgh, the First Minister said: “I believe that going forward it is in the best interest of the people of Scotland to pursue a different arrangement.

“That is why, following a discussion with my Cabinet this morning, I have formally notified Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater that I am terminating the Bute House Agreement with immediate effect.”

But Ms Slater said of the move: “This is an act of political cowardice by the SNP, who are selling out future generations to appease the most reactionary forces in the country.

“By ending the agreement in such a weak and thoroughly hopeless way, Humza Yousaf has signalled that when it comes to political co-operation, he can no longer be trusted.”

She accused the SNP of having “broken the bonds of trust with members of both parties” and said it had “betrayed the electorate”.

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