Humza Yosuaf has said the buck stops with him if the SNP fails to win next week’s Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election – with the Scottish First Minister stating the contest could be determined by the party’s effort on polling day.
With the by-election a two-horse race between the SNP, which won the seat in 2019, and Scottish Labour, Mr Yousaf said ensuring his party’s supporters vote on October 5 would be crucial.
However, he conceded the SNP was facing “some very difficult circumstances” in the seat, which had been held by Margaret Ferrier.
She won the seat for the SNP in 2019, but was suspended from the party after she breached Covid regulations, travelling from Westminster to Scotland by train after testing positive for the virus.
A suspension from the House of Commons resulted in a recall petition against Ms Ferrier which, in turn, sparked next Thursday’s by-election.
It comes in the wake of a turbulent time for the SNP, with Mr Yousaf voted in as party leader and Scottish First Minister following the sudden resignation of Nicola Sturgeon.
Ms Sturgeon; her husband, former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell; and the party’s former treasurer; were all later arrested by Police Scotland detectives as part of a probe into SNP finances – although all three were released without any charges being brought.
Mr Yousaf, campaigning in Cambuslang with SNP candidate Katy Loudon and the party’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, accepted: “The first six months of my leadership have been fairly eventful. There’s been some things I anticipated, and some things I did not anticipate.”
But, in terms of the by-election, he said: “Ultimately, the buck stops with me as leader of the SNP. If you don’t retain a seat I will be answerable to my membership in that regard.”
However, he stressed it was “known there is some very difficult circumstances in this seat, given Margaret Ferrier’s actions”, adding the SNP had been “very quick” to act when details of her behaviour emerged.
Mr Yousaf said there were “also other factors which make this seat a challenge to retain it”.
Despite that, he insisted support for his party was strong.
He said: “I am very confident we have got a great candidate, but also I have been here for many, many weeks and the support for the SNP is strong.
“It may just come down to on the day making sure we can get our support out.”
Mr Yousaf continued: “What I think it is going to end up coming down to is, on the day, we have to make sure we have lots of people out on the day, ensuring we chap up that vote, make sure we are getting people to the polling station, and reminding people of the importance of casting their vote.”