This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

You could hear the “but” coming a mile off. 

“Humza is intelligent,” Professor Sir John Curtice said. 

“He’s affable,” the nation’s foremost psephologist added.

“Charming,” the Strathclyde uni polling guru continued. 

“He has many valuable qualities,” the country’s favourite political boffin knight told the online briefing held by the True North political consultancy.

And then he reached the inevitable.

“But the one thing that I think is being acknowledged, sometimes openly, is that what he's not is the charismatic politician of the kind that Alex Salmond always was, and Nicola Sturgeon learnt to be.”

The professor was talking us through some new polling carried out by Survation for the consultancy.

When asked to what extent they thought favourably or unfavourably of the First Minister, 6% of Scots said they were strongly favourable, while 16% said they were somewhat favourable. 

16% were somewhat unfavourable, while 29% were strongly unfavourable, giving him a net popularity rating of -22.

Still though, there’s some room for hope. 22% said they were neither favourable or unfavourable, 5% said they didn’t know and 7% said they hadn’t heard of him.

He is still slightly more popular than Douglas Ross, whose rating is -26, but he’s far behind Anas Sarwar who’s on -3. 

More worryingly for the First Minister is that his favourability rating is poor, not only amongst the public in general but with SNP voters. 

Of those who voted for the party in 2019, 11% said they felt strongly favourable toward Yousaf, and 27% were somewhat favourable. 

15% were somewhat unfavourable and another 15% were strongly unfavourable, giving him a net rate of just +9.

By way of contrast, Ross’s net rating among his own voters is +29 and Sarwar’s is +15.

One of the problems for Yousaf is that he’s never quite escaped the criticisms of his record in government. 

That’s partly thanks to Kate Forbes during the bitter leadership contest.

You'll remember her attack during the STV debate. “You were a transport minister and the trains were never on time, when you were justice secretary the police were stretched to breaking point, and now as health minister, we've got record high waiting times. 

“What makes you think you can do a better job as first minister?”

The Herald:

It was absolutely devastating then. It’s devastating now, and it’ll probably still be devastating when Labour and the Tories plaster it all over their election leaflets in 2026.

In his analysis of the polling, Professor Curtice pointed out that actually, it was that battle that's done the most damage to the SNP’s number, more so than Branchform. 

It’s maybe not uncommon for a party to end a leadership battle in a worse place than when they started it, but there’s supposed to be a boost when the new body takes over. 

That didn’t happen for the SNP. 

The last time a new party leader failed to secure a bump was when Liz Truss took charge of the Tories. 

“One has to say that Humza is not proving to be sufficiently attractive to people who are Yes voters, are past SNP voters, to be a potential pole of attraction for them, and to give them reason as to why perhaps they should stick with the party despite some of the current discontent,” Prof Curtice said. 

“And to that extent, at least, he is potentially politically exposed.”

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To be fair, I’m not sure even his harshest critics would compare him to Liz Truss. 

Though I texted a couple just to be sure. 

A Labour source said they thought he was “dangerously incompetent” but “in a distinct way”.

Another critic from the pro-independence side said it wasn’t fair as Yousaf had already managed more than twice the number of days in office as Truss had.

I texted a couple of SNP folk who didn’t support him in the leadership contest, and the truth is they’re desperate for him to succeed. 

They like him. They agree with the Professor. He’s intelligent, affable, charming and has many valuable qualities. 


If there's a ray of hope for Yousaf in today's polling showing the SNP and Labour on level pegging, it's how narrow it all is.

A couple points here and the SNP will hold on to their seats, but equally if Labour improve their lead then the SNP could be in even more trouble than they already are. 

At the next election, every seat is going to be a marginal. Can Yousaf, for want of a better phrase, get rid of his but?

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