Monday 20 February 2023

Humza Yousaf must also answer questions about religion


Whoever the SNP elects as its next First Minister it will be in a worse position than it was before Sturgeon left. Ordinary voters know little or nothing about the potential candidates, while Sturgeon was a household name.

From a Pro UK position my first thought is to hope that the SNP elects the worst possible leader who has least chance of leading Scotland to independence. My guess is that would have to be Humza Yousaf.

Angus Robertson would be competent. Ash Regan at least stood up against Sturgeon on the trans issue, but still thinks that she can turn any election into a referendum on independence.

The sort of confrontational position that many SNP hardliners take is not going to lead them anywhere. The only sensible way Scotland can achieve independence is with the cooperation of the former UK Government. Using an election as a de facto referendum leading to immediate negotiations on independence simply invites the UK Government to ignore it or to refuse to cooperate treating any attempt to leave as UDI. The majority of Scots will not vote for this.

Sturgeon tried battering down the door to independence with anger, but there was nothing she could do when the UK said No. That remains the case, still more so after the recent Supreme Court Case.

A sensible SNP leader would recognise that there is neither going to be a second referendum any time soon nor any sort of short cut to independence by means of a General Election or Holyrood Election. Scotland is not up for a revolt.

Sturgeon chose confrontation with Westminster and got nowhere. But what if an SNP leader chose cooperation. There is one that just might do that. Kate Forbes. She could set out a vision of the trying to improve both the Scottish and UK economies by working closely with Westminster. She could try to wean Scotland off dependence on the Barnett Formula and could work towards Scotland being self-sufficient while benefitting from being part of the UK’s internal market.

After some decades of cooperation and economic success Scotland might be in a position where independence was possible while maintaining a very close relationship with the former UK. Alternatively, the SNP might accept that the close relationship with the UK was worth keeping and come up with an arrangement that satisfied both Governments.

If I were SNP leader, I would give up any chance of independence for twenty years. See it as a long-term goal. The short-term goal would then be to improve the Scottish economy and public services. The SNP could then cooperate with other parties in both Westminster and Holyrood in the common goal of improving both the UK and Scotland. At the moment this sort of cooperation is impossible because the SNP is always demanding separation. But if it could make that a long-term goal rather than an immediate goal constitutional issues would no longer matter at elections and the division in Scotland might heal.

I don’t know Kate Forbes at all, but it just might be the case that she would be interested in cooperation in a way that Sturgeon was not. I think she could be a formidable leader of the SNP, brighter than Sturgeon, kinder and more moral. Part of me therefore hopes she loses. But another part wonders if she might be able to heal the wounds in Scotland and work together with the UK Government for the benefit of both.

The main obstacle to Forbes becoming First Minister appears to be that she has rather right-wing views on economics and socially conservative views due to her membership of the Free Church of Scotland.

But while Forbes will be questioned on her Christianity. It is quite certain that Humza Yousaf will not be questioned on his Muslim views. This is grossly unfair and discriminatory.

When Tim Farron was asked about whether he thought gay sex was sinful, no one asked Muslim MPs what they thought about moral and religious issues connected with Islam. No one asked Rishi Sunak about Hinduism. Do you believe God is an elephant? Are you a polytheist? Is the caste system correct?

I don’t know whether Humza Yousaf is an active Muslim or not, but perhaps the media could as him the following questions.

1 Do you think homosexuality is forbidden by Islam?

2 Do you think Muslims should be allowed to change their religion?

3 Can Muslim men become women?

4 Would you prefer Scotland was a Muslim country?

5 Is it wrong for people to drink alcohol & eat pork?

6 Should women everywhere be free not to wear scarves or veils?

7 Do you regret the existence of the state of Israel?

8 Do you regret that Islam did not spread to Europe?

9 Would you prefer it if Islam were the only religion.

10 Are women equal to men in Islam?


To be fair I would like to ask Kate Forbes the following ten questions.


1 Is there anything in Christianity that suggests states ought to split?

2 Was the world created in 7 days?

3 Did this happen around 4000 BC?

4 Do you believe in the theory of evolution?

5 Should everything be shut on Sundays?

6 Do you believe everyone is predestined to salvation or damnation?

7 Are you one of the elect?

8 Do Catholics and Muslims go to heaven?

9 Would you attend the funeral of a Catholic?

10 Would it have been better if the Church of Scotland had not split?


Kate Forbes would no doubt have to answer questions on homosexuality and trans issues, but I think my questions are more interesting ones.

I obviously disagree with Forbes on independence, and it might be better from the Pro UK point of view if she failed to become leader. But it might be better if a nice, kind Christian liked by nearly everyone did lead the SNP. She might have the wisdom to see independence as a long-term goal. She might even be able to find a path which gives Scots most of what they want in terms of independence while maintaining what they like about living in the UK.

Most of us in Scotland want to keep the pound, the BBC and the armed forces. We want to live and work anywhere in the UK and benefit from public services. Independence supporters want these things too. No one wants closed borders.

Impatience will get the SNP nowhere and will certainly not get them a form of independence that maintains friendly relations with the former UK. But a long-term strategy of working together with the UK to give each side of the constitutional divide some of what they want might just heal the rift.

If you offer me keeping the UK intact, I will accept any other concession to Scottish nationalism.

Jesus was the mediator and the redeemer. Perhaps Forbes might find a way to get much of what she desires without dividing the UK. Perhaps she could find a way of mediating the desires of Scots who feel British and those who feel only Scottish. Sturgeon could not because she could only appeal to one side. Perhaps Forbes could do better and benefit all of us.