Humza Yousaf: ‘Like a leader created by ChatGPT’

Bute House, the official home of Scotland's first minister, where Humza Yousaf will take up residence. Photo: Kim Traynor. CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s striking how muted the response has been to Humza Yousaf’s ascent to Scotland’s highest office. He’s the first Muslim and the first ethnic Pakistani to take charge of a western European semi-autonomous democracy. That should count for something. At the very least, Mr Yousaf’s rise to the top of Scottish politics should have spawned a hundred different stories a la the October 2022 media froth when Rishi Sunak became UK prime minister.

But it’s all been very measured. I’m trying to work out why.

Is it because Mr Yousaf’s words and deeds won’t ever matter in the same way as Mr Sunak on account of Scotland’s very different status as a constituent part of the United Kingdom?

Is it because he is so much an establishment man, albeit Scottish National Party (SNP) establishment, and everyone already knows what Mr Yousaf will say or do?

Or is it because the role of “continuity candidate” – to replace Nicola Sturgeon – can only ever be boring because it basically requires a vision bypass? Someone described Mr Yousaf as sounding “like a leader created by ChatGPT“!

Perhaps it’s a combination of all three?

Or may be, just may be, it’s because few expect anything much of Mr Yousaf?

Despite more than a decade in government, when Mr Yousaf held disparate, important portfolios, it’s hard to point to many legislative, executive or big-idea accomplishments. In fact, his rival for SNP leader, Kate Forbes, offered a withering assessment of Mr Yousaf that may live on, much beyond his time in office: “You were transport minister and the trains were never on time, when you were justice secretary the police were stretched to breaking point, and now as health minister we’ve got record high waiting times”.

The list is long of Mr Yousaf’s fumbles as a minister:

** As transport minister, he was fined £300 and had six penalty points added to his licence for driving a friend’s car without the proper insurance.

** As justice secretary, his flagship hate crime bill has remained controversial because a new offence –”stirring up hatred” – could have a major impact on freedom of speech. It is yet to become law. He also managed to dismiss concerns about the state of Scotland’s police buildings as “hyperbole” just hours before the ceiling collapsed at a police station near Dundee.

** As health secretary, he had to apologise for any “undue alarm” he had caused by wrongly claiming that 10 children had been hospitalised “because of Covid”. Hospital waiting times are also very long.