SNP’s Humza Yousaf says Alex Salmond same-sex marriage claims ‘pretty desperate’

Humza Yousaf

Humza Yousaf has told PinkNews that Alex Salmond’s suggestion he dodged a vote on same-sex marriage a “predictable” and “desperate” tactic.

Salmond, who was first minister when Scotland’s marriage equality bill passed, appeared on Sky News Thursday night (2 March) to suggest Yousaf skipped the final vote in 2014 due to “religious pressure”.

Health secretary Yousaf voted for the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill at its first stage, but missed the final vote.

Speaking to PinkNews, Yousaf explained this was because of an “unavoidable meeting” in which he was “trying to secure the release of a Scottish citizen in a Pakistani jail” charged with blasphemy, “effectively a death sentence”

Yousaf said it was “entirely predictable that [Salmond] was going to comment”.

“Alex Salmond, and those who are supporting other candidates in the SNP leadership, it’s not surprising that they’re using pretty desperate tactics to try to derail the campaign,” he told PinkNews.

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“Nine years ago, because I wasn’t there, people legitimately and rightly asked me why I wasn’t at the vote.

“I explained it at the time, and it’s never been raised since. It’s now being raised in the midst of a selection contest by people who are very openly backing other candidates, or indeed who have made it clear, if you read between the lines, that they don’t want me to get the SNP leadership. So I mean, I think people see it in that context and see it for what it is.”

Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf.
Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf. (Getty)

Humza Yousaf has faced scrutiny over his absence from the 2014 vote throughout the week. Marriage equality has become a key focus of the SNP leadership race ever since his main rival, finance secretary Kate Forbes, admitted she would not back same-sex marriage if a vote was held now due to her Christian beliefs.

Forbes later apologised for offence caused to the LGBTQ+ community, and said she would “protect the rights of everybody in Scotland, particularly minorities, to live and to love without fear or harassment”. However, she has defended her right to hold faith-based values.

Yousaf is a proud Muslim and believes any first minister must put aside any religious conviction when legislating.

He suggested there would be no place in his cabinet, if he were to win the SNP leadership race, for those who would go against same-sex marriage.

“For me government operates on collective responsibility,” he said. “I don’t begrudge anybody for holding faith views or values – I’m a person of faith myself I don’t hide away from it, in fact I’m very proud of being Muslim. But I’ve made it very, very clear that my faith is not the basis by which I legislate. And I think that’s really important.

“If I do end up being the leader of the SNP, the next first minister, I’ll be making it very, very clear the progressive agenda that has won us so much support, and that I think chimes with the majority values of the people of Scotland, that is the progressive agenda I’ll continue, and anybody who wants to be in a government that is led by me, they will have to sign up to that progressive agenda.”

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf during the first SNP hustings. (Getty)

Yousaf, Forbes and Ash Regan are vying to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and first minister of Scotland. With hustings now underway, voting will open on 13 March for SNP members to have their say. A winner is expected to be declared on the day the vote closes, 27 March.

Salmond told Sky News he was “reluctant” to comment on the race, saying: “I really don’t have a dog in this race, and anything I say, you know, people will say ‘he’s only saying that because he’s leader of Alba’.

“My memory is that I was contacted 10 days or so before the vote, when the vote was known, and told that Humza was arranging a ministerial appointment.”

PinkNews contacted Alex Salmond for comment.