As Humza Yousaf resigns, where does opinion in Scotland stand?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
April 29, 2024, 4:09 PM GMT+0

Most Scots wanted to see Yousaf lose the no-confidence vote

Shortly after midday today, Humza Yousaf resigned as first minister of Scotland after just 13 months in the role. The SNP leader had been facing a vote of no confidence in the Scottish Parliament after his coalition agreement with the Scottish Greens fell through.

Now a new YouGov survey, with fieldwork conducted immediately prior to Yousaf’s resignation, shows how Scotland felt about the political landscape and the prospect of the SNP continuing in power.

Latest voting intention

YouGov polling at the beginning of the month showed that the SNP had fallen to their lowest Westminster vote share since the independence referendum in 2014, and were also now behind Labour for the first time since that date.

Our new poll shows that Labour continue to hold on to their very slender lead in Westminster voting intention north of the border. A third of Scottish voters (34%) say they intend to back Labour (+1 from our poll in late March / early April), while 33% say they will back the SNP (+2). The Conservatives trail in a distant third place on 14% (no change).

When it comes to voting intention for the Scottish Parliament, the SNP are holding on to their narrow lead in the constituency vote – 36% (+2) versus Labour’s 32% (no change) – and are likewise slightly ahead in the regional vote at 31% (+2) to Labour’s 28% (-1).

How well had Scots thought Humza Yousaf was doing as first minister before he resigned?

Humza Yousaf began his premiership as an unpopular figure, and this remained the case throughout his time in office. In YouGov polling earlier this month, 55% of Scots said he was doing a good job as first minister, compared to 27% who thought he was doing a bad job.

In our new poll the proportion of Scots saying that Yousaf has been doing a bad job has risen sharply to 67%, with only 20% saying his performance has been positive. This gives him a net job approval rating of -47.

By contrast, Anas Sarwar, the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, has a positive approval rating overall (+4). Around one in three Scots (36%) think Sarwar is doing a good job, compared to 32% who disagree.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross remains unpopular, with only 22% saying he is doing well and 49% saying he is doing badly.

Having now left power, the Scottish Greens’ co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater are even less popular now than they were the last time we asked a year ago. In April 2023, 40% had thought the two Green co-leaders were doing badly; this figure has since risen to 46%, while the proportion who think they are doing well is largely unchanged (17%, from 20% a year ago).

Was it right for the coalition agreement between the SNP and Greens to end?

Relations between the governing SNP and Green parties had been increasingly tense in recent months, with Humza Yousaf having told Scottish voters in March that backing the Greens at the general election was a wasted vote, and with the Greens frustrated by a lack of progress on key policies.

The Scottish public tend to think that the two parties were right to end their alliance, although this only accounts for 37% of Scots saying so. One in four (27%) disagree, while 36% are unsure.

Among those who backed the SNP at the 2019 general election, there is a slight tendency to think the separation was the wrong call, by 39% to 33%.

How should the no-confidence vote have gone?

The no-confidence vote that Yousaf was facing stood on a knife’s edge. Had he not resigned, he would have been reliant on the vote of the Alba party’s MSP Ash Regan – who had defected from the SNP last year in protest of its loss of focus on independence – in order to hold on to his job.

Yousaf’s departure is clearly not unpopular among the Scottish public – in the event that the no-confidence vote had happened, 55% of Scots would have wanted to see the Scottish Parliament vote to remove the first minister. This includes fully 40% of those who voted for the SNP in 2019 – about the same number as wanted Yousaf to cling on (41%).

Overall, only 24% of Scots had hoped to see Yousaf survive the no-confidence vote.

Please note that this question was asked before it became clear that two no-confidence votes were being called – one on Yousaf himself (the loss of which would not have required him to resign) and one on the Scottish government (which would).

Was it right to scrap the carbon emissions target?

Part of the reason for the collapse in the SNP-Green coalition was the SNP’s decision to abandon Scotland’s target to cut carbon emissions by 2030.

Scots are split over the move – 40% think it was the right call, while 37% think it was the wrong move. Those who backed the SNP in 2019 are likewise split, with 38% in support but 41% opposed.

Independence tracker

The latest results for our Scottish independence voting intention tracker put the No side on 54% (+1 from early April) and the Yes side on 46% (-1).

See the full results here

What do you think of Humza Yousaf, Scottish politics and independence, and everything else? Have your say, join the YouGov panel, and get paid to share your thoughts. Sign up here.

Photo: BBC