Humzas visit to meet Rishi illustrated how weak SNP is post-Sturgeon

Humza Yousaf quizzed on arrest of SNP treasurer Colin Beattie

In the 27 days since Humza Yousaf became SNP leader and then First Minister of Scotland, his party’s former chief executive and treasurer have both been arrested (and released) in an investigation over missing money and speculation is mounting that his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon could be next. And this was his honeymoon period.

No wonder Mr Yousaf fled to London to get a change of scenery and possibly face less embarrassing questions.

Although the news that followed him south was the outrage that the SNP bigwig Angus Robertson had been receiving secret payments of £33,000 when he was Westminster leader and had also received payments for polls which never materialised.

Another question mark over what exactly the SNP has been doing with its money.

But that aside, no doubt the new Scottish First Minister thought he might find a friendly anti-Tory ally in Labour’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan to offer some comfort.

And possibly he was dreaming of the headlines of telling Prime Minister Rishi Sunak he needs to respect the will of Scotland, whatever that may be. Although he got the opposite.

But as he stood in Portcullis House on the Parliamentary state he cut a lonely figure despite the entourage around him.

One SNP MP confided that “the odds of him surviving are very low”.

It was perhaps not the ringing vote of confidence that Mr Yousaf needed.

Another Scottish MP from a pro-UK party though highlighted how different it was to his predecessor Ms Sturgeon.

“You would never have seen Nicola standing around like that.

“When she came she would always go to the [SNP] Westminster leader’s office and hold court there.

“We never even saw her come in and even those of us from other parties could only meet her there.

“You certainly wouldn’t see her loitering around in the middle of Portcullis House.

“She even demanded Theresa May would visit her in the office when she was Prime Minister during the Brexit talks.

“I’m afraid this really shows how much weaker Humza is than Nicola.”

The image of looking slightly lost was even worse when the bell rang for MPs to vote and all of them headed towards the lobbies.

Yousaf had to be whisked away.

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There is a confident look about the smartly-dressed politician but there is always a suspicion among MPs it covers an inner insecurity.

Certainly the appearance of not quite knowing where you are going in the middle of the parliamentary estate is perhaps not the one that a man floundering in the political waters wants to project.

The chatter is that awaiting on the backbenches is his defeated rival Kate Forbes, not a continuity candidate and in some ways more divisive with her well-known religious views.

And there was a certain irony in trying to find kinship with a Labour politician (Sadiq Khan) given that it is Labour that feels poised to replace the SNP in Scotland.

Given time Yousaf may prove the doubters wrong, but standing in Westminster yesterday he looked like a man for whom time is running out.

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