In Pollok, the locals are circling the wagons round their imperilled MSP, who also happens to be First Minister of Scotland. As it seems that Humza Yousaf may have fallen among thieves at Holyrood, here on Glasgow’s sprawling south-side enclave he’s among friends.

The realm where our elected representatives gather seems never more detached from the people who put them there than when political alarums and upheavals are unfolding. As the civic tribunes and their media chroniclers mine superlatives (the worst of this; the best of that: unprecedented, unparalleled, historic) it’s left to their reality-experienced constituents to provide perspective.

And where better to divine the word on the street than the Pearce Institute café on the Govan Road, just along from his constituency office. Ten years ago, I’d pitched up here looking for some real people and their unvarnished views about the impending referendum on independence. I was rewarded with the most uplifting event of the entire campaign.

A local women’s group called Tea in the Pot were hosting their own discussion on the referendum but when they’d approached the Yes campaign and Better Together for speakers neither had favoured them with a reply. They didn’t know what they were missing. These 30 women, the majority of whom had encountered trauma and profound social challenges in their lives staged a lively and well-informed debate conducted respectfully and with dignity.

The Herald: Humza Yousaf (second right) meets constituents during campaigning in Pollok, Glasgow to share his vision with voters of an independent ScotlandHumza Yousaf (second right) meets constituents during campaigning in Pollok, Glasgow to share his vision with voters of an independent Scotland (Image: free)

In the Pearce Institute café, I meet Chris Stephens, the Westminster representative for Glasgow south-west, who’s holding a constituency surgery. "Have you been to the Pearce before,” he asks, and I tell him about the Govan women from 2014. “There’s three of them over there,” he says. “They’re going from strength to strength and are still changing lives around here.”

It’s the best news I’ve heard all year.

Mr Stephens is predictably loyal to the embattled Mr Yousaf. “The overwhelming majority of party members have no problem whatsoever with him ditching the Bute House Agreement,” he says. “I think he’ll survive all of this. It’s in no-one’s interests. And people will remember who the so-called progressives were who voted for a Tory motion.”

“Aye, well,” I say, “I don’t see Neil Gray or Mairi McAllan exactly falling over themselves to rally to his cause.” Mention of the two SNP vultures reported to be circling Mr Yousaf’s twitching political cadaver elicits a sidelong glance from Mr Stephens. “Neil and Mairi are fine politicians and 100 per cent behind the First Minister,” he says. “It’s me you’re talking to,” I say, but he’s having none of it.

Alex Mitchell, a local party member is also hoping Mr Yousaf survives. “Look, I personally wouldn’t have ditched the Bute Agreement,” he says, “but Humza has my full support. He’s a hard-working constituency MSP and is well-liked around here, including those who aren’t SNP supporters.

“The most important quality that people like to see in their politicians is decency and I think Humza has that in spades. He’s a good people person.”

Lorraine in her role as a returning officer at elections has no party affiliation, but has encountered Mr Yousaf often in her official capacity. “He’s always been very courteous and approachable,” she says. “And I have indirect experience of his kindness and his willingness to help when he can.

“A friend of mine had a situation recently which required his help. He was immediately available and left her in no doubt that he’d do everything he possible could to resolve her situation. For the ordinary voter on the street these are the most important qualities in a politician.”


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She cautiously raises the question of race and the three of us fall to discussing how the anonymity of social media has become a sewer on the question of the First Minister’s Asian heritage. “It disgusts me,” she says. It’s a theme I’ll hear often – and unbidden – in the course of the day.

In the nearby neighbourhood of Corkerhill a mum is taking her two young girls to the train station just across the road for a trip into town. Journalists must weigh up several factors when deciding whether or not to approach young women with children for their views on issues of the day. They’ll almost certainly be dealing with weightier matters than this in their own lives and besides whenever you declare you’re a journalist you see them immediately scanning your coupon for tell-tale signs of psychopathy.

Sarah, though is solicitous and thoughtful. “The train’s not due for ten minutes,” she says, “so I can give you a few minutes.”

Did she vote for Humza Yousaf and did she think he could survive his current troubles? “I’ve got to confess,” she says, “I voted Labour last time and will do so again. My husband and me come from a strong Labour tradition, and we’ll probably vote for them again. But Humza is a good constituency MSP and he attends a lot of events around here. I think he conducts himself well.

“A lot of us are quite proud of him. I’m not really sure what he’s done wrong and I don’t know what getting rid of him will actually achieve right now. People around here would rather see these politicians and you in the media talking more about the real issues that actually affect the lives of people in communities like this.”

Pollok, comprising three large housing schemes, was largely constructed just before and after the Second World War, one of several halo communities built around Glasgow to house thousands of families cleared from unfit homes around Glasgow City centre. Remnants of its pastoral heritage are never far away: the White Cart River; Pollok Country Park and the old Crookston Castle.

Yet, it should be even more verdant than this. A Labour administration at Glasgow City Council thought it would be a good idea to perform acute and unnecessary surgery on these lands by gouging out the M77 motorway through fields and parks which had provided generations of children with safe, green spaces. It still seems that the primary purpose of this highway was to shorten the journey-time of executives living in the Newton Mearns chardonnay schemes.

The Herald: Humza Yousaf holds a 'Yes' sign with SNP activists during campaigning in Pollok, Glasgow to share his vision with voters of an independent ScotlandHumza Yousaf holds a 'Yes' sign with SNP activists during campaigning in Pollok, Glasgow to share his vision with voters of an independent Scotland (Image: free)

In Corkerhill Community hub, Jacqui Dillon is proudly showing me the letters she and her colleague, Caroline Spalding received last month from Rishi Sunak for their work with Menopause Warriors and contributions to International Women’s Day. She’s unstinting in her praise of Humza Yousaf. “We’ve been down at Westminster a few times to advocate for women’s health issues and so we encounter politicians of all persuasions,” she says.

“But I can tell you right here and now that Humza is a gentleman and a prince as far as we’re concerned. Whenever we’ve asked him for help or support he never fails to provide it. It was about time he ditched the Greens as they weren’t doing anything worthwhile,” she says.

Not for the first time today, I’m asked if I think he can survive his present troubles. “I don’t really think so,” I say. “I think he waited too long to get rid of the Greens. He let them think they were important.”

“I hope you’re wrong,” she replies. “He’s a genuinely decent man and there aren’t many of them in Scottish politics.”

“But don’t you think it’s a bit odd that he lives in Dundee,” I ask. “I didn’t know that,” she says. “And does it really matter? What matters is that he’s visible and available here and knows about this community.”