SNP leader Humza Yousaf deliberately skipped the final vote on same-sex marriage in the Scottish Parliament because of his religious views, a former colleague claimed yesterday.
Former Scottish health secretary Alex Neil said Yousaf, a Muslim, asked permission to miss the crucial 2014 vote because “he was under a lot of pressure from the mosque.”
He alleged that Scottish government business was arranged for him as an “excuse” for missing the vote, and claimed that his former colleague has been “dishonest” about his reasons for not taking part.
The explosive allegations come after Yousaf’s main rival for the leadership, devout Christian Kate Forbes, faced an outcry within the SNP for saying she would have voted against same-sex marriage.
But a Yousaf ally insists he never raised concerns with her about the same-sex marriage bill.
SNP leader Humza Yousaf deliberately skipped the final vote on same-sex marriage in the Scottish Parliament because of his religious views.
Former Scottish health secretary Alex Neil claimed Yousaf, a Muslim, asked permission to miss the crucial 2014 vote because “he was under a lot of pressure from the mosque”.
Yousaf, the current Scottish health secretary, has said repeatedly this week that while Islam opposes gay marriage, he does not use his faith as a basis for legislating.
But Neil said: “I was the cabinet minister who brought the marriage equality bill to parliament for the government and three weeks before the vote, which was a free vote, as opposed to GRR (Gender Recognition Reform). …Humza went to Alex Salmond as Prime Minister and asked for permission to skip the vote because, quote, “he was under a lot of pressure from the mosque”, end quote.
So Alex agreed and allowed him to go and set up a ministerial meeting which wasn’t actually set up until 19 days later, I think… which was his excuse for missing the vote.
So if he was so devoted to the principle of marriage equality, why did he deliberately maneuver him to skip the vote and not be there and be dishonest about his reasons? That’s not leadership, that’s absolute bravery, frankly.
He said he knows about it because he was the minister taking the bill to parliament and was told who was going to be there to vote on it.
On Mr Yousaf’s claim that he does not use his faith as a basis for legislating, Mr Neil said: ‘I think what I have just told you proves that is not the case.
“His reason for skipping the vote was that he did not want to disturb the people in the mosque, he was afraid of the pressure in the mosque.
“I would have thought that proves in that case that he was motivated by opinion in the mosque and fear of standing up for what he said he believed.”
The explosive allegations come after devout Christian Kate Forbes faced an outcry within the SNP for saying she would have voted against same-sex marriage.
When asked about the claims, Mr Salmond said: “Alex Neil as Health Secretary and myself as Prime Minister guided the Marriage Equality Bill as a vote of conscience.
‘That is one of the reasons why the initially controversial legislation became the firm will of Parliament and the people. The gender recognition bill would have greatly benefited from a similar approach.
“Therefore, it was up to each MSP to vote or not to vote, according to their own conscience.”
Forbes has endured heavy criticism from SNP politicians since saying in a series of interviews on the first day of his campaign that he would have voted against same-sex marriage if he had participated in the 2014 vote.
Responding to Mr Neil’s assertions, Mr Yousaf said: “I was proud to vote in favor of the marriage equality bill in the Scottish Parliament.
‘I expressed my support for marriage equality at the time and remain unequivocal in that position.
‘As your SNP Prime Minister, and as someone from a minority background, I will stand up and stand up for equal rights for all.’
In November 2013, Mr Yousaf voted in favor of the Marriage and Civil Unions (Scotland) Bill, but missed the key final vote on the bill which passed Holyrood on 4 February 2014.
Joe FitzPatrick, who was the SNP Government’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister during the bill’s passage, said: ‘I was the Government’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister at the time.
When asked about the claims, Salmond said that “it was up to each MSP to vote or not to vote, according to their own conscience.”
‘All arrangements for ministers to be given permission to carry out vital government business during votes in parliament were handled and approved by me.
‘While other ministers raised concerns about the bill at the time, Humza was not one of them. Humza fully endorsed the bill on its first vote in parliament and continues to be a staunch ally of the LGBTQ+ community to this day and beyond.”
Asked yesterday if he intentionally skipped the vote, Yousaf said: “I’ve already said no, and it’s unbelievable that in the years since then no one has raised the issue.”
‘It tells me something convenient is happening during an election leadership bid.’