What happened to Nicola Sturgeon’s Covid WhatsApps?

A great modern Scottish myth is that the handling of the coronavirus pandemic by government ministers in Edinburgh was vastly superior to that of their counterparts in London. This rather distasteful display of Scottish exceptionalism ignores the fact that where the UK government got things right, so did the Scottish and that, likewise, mistakes were replicated on both sides of the border. This should come as a surprise to nobody. Quite rightly, both the UK and Scottish governments moved in lockstep throughout the worst of the pandemic, with scientific advisers and ministers in regular cross-border contact. It’s not as if Sturgeon didn’t know that an inquiry would, in time, wish

Stephen Daisley

Could Ash Regan’s defection be the beginning of the end for Humza Yousaf?

Eight months ago, Ash Regan was a contender for the leadership of the SNP, alongside Kate Forbes and eventual winner Humza Yousaf. Today she quit the party, defected to Alex Salmond’s rival Alba, and becomes that outfit’s first ever MSP. In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, Regan said it had ‘become increasingly clear that the SNP has lost its focus on independence, the very foundation of its existence’. She added that she ‘could not, in good conscience, continue to be part of a party that has drifted from its path and its commitment to achieving independence as a matter of urgency’.  Regan won Edinburgh East under the SNP


Ash Regan defects to Salmond’s Alba party

Another one bites the dust. In the latest blow to afflict the hapless Humza Yousaf, his onetime leadership rival Ash Regan has spectacularly defected to Alex Salmond’s Alba party at their annual conference. The Spectator pondered back in February whether Ash Regan was Alex Salmond in disguise. And now she appears to be his heir apparent… Salmond’s speech set the stage perfectly for Regan, a onetime SNP minister. Reminding his members that ‘there are many fine nationalists and many fellow Scots’ within the SNP, he told his party that ‘recruits from the SNP’ were needed if Alba wants to see success. Returning back to the podium after a standing ovation,


Green leader takes aim at Sunak — again

Is this the Scottish Green conference — or just an anti-Tory one? In his opening speech, co-leader Patrick Harvie laboured the point that he, er, just doesn’t like Prime Minister Rishi Sunak very much. Making some colourful accusations, Harvie didn’t hold back… Starting with his favourite fixation, the Scottish government minister seethed: ‘Heat pumps have become the new hate symbol of choice for the extreme far right! The climate change deniers on the far right!’ ‘Here in the UK, a Prime Minister desperately clutching anything he thinks might give his party a chance of clinging to power has once again chosen to copy the extremism of the far right!’ he

The mystery of the Covid Inquiry’s missing WhatsApps

It will no doubt be referred to in Whitehall circles in future as the ‘Jason Leitch protocol’. Scotland’s clinical director appears to have escaped scrutiny by the UK Covid Inquiry. It was revealed last night that his WhatsApp messages sent during the pandemic were deleted at the end of each day. The Scottish government have this afternoon denied this, saying that it was not correct to say that Professor Leitch deletes his Whatsapp messages and that guidance had been followed. But this does not change the fact that by the time the ‘do not destroy’ notice was issued by the Inquiry, Leitch’s messages were already gone.  First Minister Humza Yousaf


Elon Musk and Humza Yousaf in war of words

It’s an unlikely face off: the First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf against Twitter/X chief Elon Musk. The pair are currently engaged in an online spat after Musk labelled Yousaf a ‘racist’. There’s never a dull moment with him at least…  The row came about last night after Musk saw a clip of a parliamentary speech Yousaf made two years ago. Speaking just after the murder of George Floyd in the US, the then Justice Secretary remarked that the top jobs in Scotland were all occupied by (horror of horrors) white people. Since making those comments, critics have used the clip to label Yousaf as a bigot — while the


Patrick Harvie’s bizarre breakfast rant

Has Patrick Harvie woken up on the wrong side of the bed? On BBC Scotland this morning, the co-leader of the Scottish Greens appeared to take aim at just about anybody he could think of — including his own coalition government. Lashing out at the Scottish nationalists, Harvie slammed their council tax freeze. The Greens have ‘made clear we weren’t told in advance’ about the proposal, Harvie seethed, and ‘don’t think the process was well handled’. Ouch. That’s certainly something coming from a pro-environment party who couldn’t even enact their own recycling scheme…  Next in the firing line was the Westminster government. Harvie harped on about Sunak’s decision to U-turn


Has Humza misled Holyrood over his WhatsApps?

What comes around, goes around. The SNP government has never been slow in condemning the Tories for a lack of transparency in the ongoing UK Covid Inquiry. So it was to Steerpike’s amusement then that Humza Yousaf and his Scottish government are now facing criticism for not handing their key messages over to that same probe. Talk about being hoist by your own petard… This morning Jamie Dawson KC, the legal counsel to the inquiry, said that the Scottish government had been asked to provide ‘all communications related to key decisions made during the pandemic’, including informal messages on WhatsApp, but that ‘no messages’ had been handed over. So much for open

How serious is Keir Starmer about devolution?

With a general election – and the prospect of forming a government – now firmly on the horizon, the Labour party has no shortage of long-standing policies that it is quickly seeking to recast, review or revoke entirely.  Sir Keir Starmer’s earlier pledges to abolish tuition fees, increase taxes on higher earners and scrap the two-child benefit cap have all been unceremoniously dumped. Other commitments, such as a £28 billion per annum ‘Green Prosperity Plan’, have been significantly watered-down, while proposals for a tax raid on US tech giants have shifted to a wider review of business rates. This is, in many ways, a natural and prudent process for a


Nicola Sturgeon finally passes her driving test

It’s a red letter day for Nicola Sturgeon: she’s finally achieved something of lasting value. For the former First Minister has managed to pass her driving test at the precocious age of, er, 53. That’s just one year less than the average life expectancy of some of her male constituents under the SNP-run health service. Impressive stuff! Sturgeon praised her driving instructor for his help, writing on Instagram that ‘It was really important to me, as a 53-year-old former FM, not just to have an excellent teacher but someone I could trust and feel comfortable with.’ So clearly not Humza Yousaf then. She added that the experience of passing her test


Could Kate Forbes make a comeback?

U-turns are seemingly all the rage right now. When it’s not Labour and the Keirleaders backtracking on policy, it’s the turn of the SNP to pick up the slack. Back in, er, March Humza Yousaf campaigned to lead the SNP on a platform of increased ‘progressive taxation’: the idea that in a cost-of-living crisis he should, er, tax successful people more. Yet now it appears that the flailing First Minister is having second thoughts… Yousaf proposed the introduction of a new tax band of 44 per cent income tax for those earning between £75,000 and £125,140. This is despite the Scottish government having previously introduced five different income tax bands,

Stephen Daisley

Britain needs to rethink devolution

Scotland is stuck. This week has only confirmed it. SNP leader Humza Yousaf used his party conference in Aberdeen to announce a council tax freeze. It quickly emerged that he had done so without telling councils and without telling even his own cabinet. As his deputy admitted in an interview, the decision to freeze was agreed between 24 and 48 hours before the speech. Council tax was reportedly chosen because there wasn’t enough time to get expert advice on the impact of freezing other taxes. Councils are furious. Not only weren’t they consulted, but they are already making £300 million in cuts amid a two-year budget shortfall of £1.1 billion.

Will Yousaf come to regret his council tax freeze?

After the SNP won its first Holyrood election in 2007, foolish council leaders across Scotland rushed to sign up to what then finance secretary John Swinney described as a ‘historic concordat’. In return for Swinney pulling back from his threat to centralise education, Scotland’s 32 local authorities agreed to uphold the nationalists’ promise to freeze council tax rates. Lots of councillors swanked about, bragging about this brilliant deal. Look at us, they said, we’ve got a ‘historic concordat’. It appears that Yousaf has announced a flagship policy that he is simply unable to cost. And then reality slapped them across their faces. Swinney had stitched them up good and proper.


Watch: SNP MP defects to Tories

Party conference season is over and now it’s back to school. Ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions today, all eyes were on the former SNP MP Lisa Cameron today as she defected to the Tories. The onetime Nat officially crossed the floor at midday to a hero’s welcome from the Conservative benches. The cheers were so loud in fact, that one MP was forced to shut up and sit down halfway through his question.  Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, was far from impressed. He fumed at the Tories:  Can I just say to the members, the member was in the middle of asking a question. I think it’s

John Ferry

The SNP conference was full of rampant misinformation

Picture the scene around a year from now. We’ve just had a general election. The SNP has gone from 48 MPs in 2019 to, say, 30. Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf announces he is starting the process of taking Scotland out of the UK in line with the policy his party adopted the previous year. Papers are published. Scottish civil servants are instructed to start preparing for secession. The new UK administration has already given its response: there is no mandate for independence and no legal basis for its implementation. Regardless, Yousaf and his team set off for London to demand Scotland’s right to break away. He’s read the history

Matthew Lynn

Who would lend money to Humza Yousaf?

It runs a vast budget deficit. It keeps raising taxes way above its neighbour. It spends wildly, it is at war with its major industry, and its former leader has been arrested over an investigation into missing party funds. But, heck, never mind about that. Humza Yousaf, the leader of the Scottish National Party, has just decided the bond markets will now have the privilege of ignoring Switzerland and Norway for a few days and can lend a few billion to Scotland instead. There is just a small problem, however. Why would anyone want to lend money to Humza?  It was certainly an ambitious proposal. In his conference speech, Humza

Humza Yousaf’s election strategy? Keep the spending taps open

Humza Yousaf’s main objective at this week’s SNP conference, his first as leader, was to free himself from the constitutional millstone placed round his neck by his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon: the ‘de facto’ referendum. He has united the party in ditching that phrase, though the phoney plebiscite remains in spirit. The new policy states that if the SNP win a majority of seats at the next election the Scottish government will ‘begin immediate negotiations with the UK government to give democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent country’. The Labour party and the Conservatives will negotiate by empty chair and, if the SNP lose seats next year as expected, will say

Will Humza Yousaf’s conference promises save the SNP?

Humza Yousaf took SNP politicians and activists to the blistering cold of Aberdeen this week to host his first party conference as SNP leader. Yousaf was under great personal stress with his wife’s family currently trapped in Gaza and the event had a sombre tone to it, not helped by an audience turnout that didn’t quite manage to fill the main hall. Off the back of a disappointing defeat in the Rutherglen by-election, a defection of one of his own MPs to the Tory party and polling predicting that Yousaf’s party might lose over half of their Westminster seats to Labour next year, there was a lot hinging on the


Humza ‘Useless’ unpopular as ever with Scots 

It’s all very well judging political parties on their polling figures. But what exactly do voters think about their leaders? Look no further: thanks to Savanta polling for the Scotsman, Mr S has discovered just how negatively the people of Scotland view those vying to be their next First Minister. Bottom of the pile is, shock, horror, flailing First Minister Humza Yousaf. Quelle surprise! The polling confirms what we already previously knew: hapless Humza is officially ‘Useless’.  His first six months in power at Holyrood have seen him struggle to escape the shadow of his predecessor – and that ongoing police probe. A new word cloud generated about him from voter


Sturgeon: I’m not the ‘Liz Truss of the SNP’

She’s back! It wouldn’t be a proper SNP jamboree without an appearance from the dear Leader, the self-identifying Chief Mammy of nationalist fervour, Nicola Sturgeon. As hard as she tried to claim her surprise visit to Aberdeen was not overshadowing her successor’s first party conference, Mr S wasn’t convinced that even she believed that… With her entrance to the annual conference given a hero’s welcome, Sturgeon was swarmed by adoring activists as she crowed to journalists about her ‘fair amount of electoral success’. Asked about her successor, she declared to the assembled press pack: ‘I think Humza is doing a fantastic job as leader of the party and as First