First Minister Humza Yousaf could surely never have imagined, in his wildest nightmares, quite what lay ahead when he put his name down as the shoo-in for replacing Nicola Sturgeon.
Baptism of fire doesn’t even come close to describing what he has been through in the first three months or so of his tenure.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds missing from his party’s bank account, the resignation of the party auditors, the arrest of chief executive Peter Murrell, followed by treasurer Colin Beattie and then Ms Sturgeon herself. The murder-style forensic examination of the Murrell-Sturgeon home and SNP headquarters, and the curious case of the luxury £100,000 motorhome which had sat for two years, uninsured and unused, on Mr Murrell’s elderly mother’s driveway in Fife.
It all created the widely-held impression that the once-seemingly impregnable ruling party was in complete meltdown.
All three of those arrested were swiftly released without charge but under further investigation, and the longer the current information vacuum continues, the more people assume that the smoke does indeed lead to a fire.
Mr Yousaf appears to bear no responsibility whatsoever for the events which occurred prior to taking office and, indeed, says he was blissfully unaware of the existence of the motorhome and the resignation of the auditors until his feet were under the Bute House table.
What he does bear responsibility for, however, is the continuing chaos which has happened since then, and the hard fact he must swallow is that the more he obfuscates and prevaricates on one crucial issue, the more difficult the task ahead of him becomes. The task he must perform, with little electoral risk, is to end immediately the one-sided Bute House Agreement with the Greens, whose joint leader, Lorna Slater, is single-handedly responsible for much of what has gone wrong.
I must admit I find it curious how much power Ms Slater and her recently-invisible joint leader, Patrick Harvie, have been allowed to wield. The SNP has always had its finger firmly on the pulse of the nation’s mood, yet it allowed the Greens to push forward with the Deposit Return Scheme, despite persistent warnings from all quarters that it was doomed to failure.
Retailers big and small railed against it, the public made it known that it didn’t want it, and the UK Government gave clear indications that it would not allow it if glass was to be included. But Ms Slater, tone-deaf to all this, pushed ahead, until finally forced to admit what everyone had told her – the scheme was unworkable in its current form.
The whole farce was a classic example of what happens when ideology and pragmatism head in opposite directions. Anyone with an ounce of pride would have accepted responsibility and resigned, but Ms Slater did neither. An attempt to remove her through a Tory-led no-confidence vote failed because the SNP rallied behind her, seemingly oblivious to the damage she was, and is, inflicting on them.
First the drinks industry, then fishing
Not content with attempting to destroy the drinks industry, this Queen Midas in reverse had her sights firmly set on destroying the west coast fishing industry by attempting to introduce Highly Protected Marine Areas, which would have put 10% of waters out of bounds.
Again, oblivious to how out of touch she is with Scotland’s diverse communities, she visited the Isle of Rum, taking a ministerial car to Mallaig and then eschewing the £4.70 public ferry to the island, and instead hiring a private catamaran at a cost the Scottish Government refuses to disclose.
This time, fortunately, the Scottish Government has seen the dangers ahead and scrapped the scheme. It is astonishing that, faced with such breathtaking incompetence from one of their adopted ministers, the SNP has not accepted that this political marriage of convenience was made in hell.
Mr Yousaf has made a decent job of navigating through many of the disasters he inherited and, until his confusing address to the SNP special conference last month, gave the impression of being much more competent and self-assured than his critics assured us he would be. He is in serious danger of destroying all that, however, if he does not realise – today – that he must end this pact with the Greens, get on with the job of running Scotland, and allow the Greens to return to the shadows where they belong.
Derek Tucker is a former editor of The Press and Journal