Scotsman Comment: Humza Yousaf must learn soft power skills as First Minister
Our poll at the weekend, which was the first to be carried out after Mr Yousaf’s victory in the SNP leadership contest, revealed the party faces losing 18 seats at Westminster to a resurgent Labour.
The new First Minister took office with an approval rating of -20, compared with +38 for Ms Sturgeon when she moved into Bute House.
It is clear the SNP, which has been a paragon of party discipline for so many years, is now suffering the effects of deep division.
The urgency of the situation was thrown into relief over the weekend when former minister Fergus Ewing called for an end to the power-sharing deal with the “wine bar pseudo-intellectual” Greens, and by reports of a rebel group of 15 SNP MSPs preparing to publish their own policy papers.
Healing these stark divisions must surely be at the very top of Mr Yousaf’s in-tray.
And yet, in his brief tenure so far, the new First Minister has displayed little inclination towards winning over hearts and minds within his own party.
Having very narrowly defeated leadership rival Kate Forbes, Mr Yousaf then offered her a demotion from finance secretary to the brief for rural affairs.
Unsurprisingly, Ms Forbes turned the role down and went on to dismiss claims from her successor, Shona Robison, that her reason for doing so was to achieve a “better work-life balance”.
With Ms Forbes, who won the support of 48 per cent of SNP members, out of his team, Mr Yousaf then assembled a Cabinet around him consisting entirely of those who had backed him during his leadership campaign.
Perhaps his predecessors, Ms Sturgeon and Alex Salmond, were able to impose strict party discipline because support for the SNP and its defining goal of independence seemed on an ever-upwards trajectory – “wheesht for indy”.
Mr Yousaf does not enjoy that benefit. It may be that a more conciliatory approach is required to stem any further haemorrhaging of support.
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