Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s sixth First Minister and Keeper of the Scottish Seal, may regret not giving Kate Forbes a better job offer. He must have known that Forbes, his close rival in the leadership race, would turn down the rural affairs and islands cabinet position. 

Not only was the offer a demotion for the former finance minister but one that would end in tears, as so many of her policies would come under fire from the Greens, who Yousaf has to keep sweet to keep his majority.

Yousaf’s mealy-mouthed offer has been described by Alex Neil, one of Forbes’s key supporters and a former SNP minister, as “an insult and not a real attempt to unite.” 

So it’s not so surprising that Forbes is returning to the backbenches, and planning to spend more time with her family. Forbes is technically still on maternity leave until after the Easter recess after having a baby girl last August. 

Forbes herself has been gracious about Yousaf, tweeting: “To the great credit of Humza Yousaf the first official [conversation] he had after Monday’s result was with me. He has been respectful, supportive and warm throughout. In whatever capacity I serve, I’ll support him. Ps after five long weeks, I’ll be delighted to see more of my family.”

Yet being on the backbenches could turn out to be a blessing for Forbes. It gives her the independence to criticise the government and to be ready to return to battle if Yousaf starts slipping up, as many expect him to do, and sooner rather than later. 

In this way, she becomes the Queen across the water waiting, making it easier for her to disassociate herself from policies she might disagree with: like Yousaf’s decision to challenge Westminster over implementing section 35 to prevent the Gender Recognition Reform Bill from gaining Royal Assent.    

In his arrogance over winning the leadership fight, Yousaf has clearly forgotten that it was only by the slimmest of margins and only with second preferences, at 52% to 48%. He should have remembered the famous saying of the Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu. “Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies even closer.”  

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