Hi, I'm Humza Yousaf and I'll be here to answer your questions live from SNP Conference in Perth at 17:30 BST (12:30 ET).

This afternoon will see First Minister Alex Salmond deliver his speech to conference from 15:00 BST, days after the signing of the historic Edinburgh Agreement paving the way for a referendum on Scottish independence. I'll be happy to take your questions on this, Scottish politics or other topics.

My verification tweet is here and my web page is here .

Update 15:00: You can follow First Minister Alex Salmond's address to SNP Conference live on the BBC here. Keep the questions coming in the meantime and I'll be back at 17:30 to start answering them!

Update 18:30: Sorry everyone I didn't get the chance to respond to, but I'm afraid my time is up as there are other conference events I need to get to this evening. Thank you for all your questions and for the chance to discuss these issues with you.

Comments: 1040 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

MotorheadMad153 karma

The SNP have long gone on about London being too far away from Scotland to understand what goes on here and that they have too much centralised control. As an Aberdonian it currently feels like Edinburgh would just become the new London if Scotland gained independence and many things would be done purely for central belt benefit. Do you believe my view is correct and I should just accept it or do you disagree? If the latter please explain what is different.

EDIT: To Yanks, Canadians and others from large land masses who are now downvoting me please see here and here.

Fairwolf59 karma

Also as an Aberdonian; at least they can't do any worse than the brain-dead parasites we have as the Aberdeen City Council at the moment.

Edit: Hijacking my own comment, list of the questions and answers: http://www.reddit.com/r/Scotland/comments/11sma5/humza_yousaf_msp_the_snp_minister_for_external/c6pamgu

MotorheadMad40 karma

I think the people downvoting you aren't from this area and don't know fully about the mess of UTG, the bypass or Trump's golf course. Or that they're in debt yet recently took over the 2nd largest granite building in the world as their HQ and then refurbished it inside and out.

glglglglgl4 karma

In the council's defence, the hold up with the bypass is not really their fault. UTG has been repeatedly a mess for both sides of the issue, so you're right there. Edit: and wasn't Marischal College taken on prior to the economy going tits up? Though I'm not sure exactly.

HumzaYousafMSP11 karma

I'm pleased that the final legal hurdle that was delaying the Bypass has now been cleared and we can now move on to getting it built.

HumzaYousafMSP49 karma

I'm early!

Although never being complacent about these things, I can't see that happening in Scotland. If we take our current example of devolution, Glasgow is the local authority that has had the most funding of any mainland council.

Every region/town/city of Scotland has its own strengths. It's important that with independence we unleash their full potential - including Aberdeen, which as Scotland's energy capital is an essential part of our economy.

Raerth94 karma

The Armed forces are a large employer in Scotland, both for serving members and industry.

What Military would an independent Scotland retain?


Would Scotland allow Scottish members of the UK armed forces to continue serving?

Do you predict job losses in an independent Scotland's defence industry?

scotish32 karma

Follow-up question:

The SNP campaigned heavily to save two RAF bases that were under threat of closure. Since then, Alex Salmond has stated (to paraphrase) that 'the ideal makeup of a Scottish armed force would be 1 army base, 1 naval base and 1 RAF base'. How is this not hypocritical?

HumzaYousafMSP22 karma

Our position has been consistent, we've always said that we would inherit our defence infrastructure from the UK. We campaigned directly from the First Minister through to the grassroots to keep the bases open. It's with deep regret that the UK Government didn't listen.

We outlined our defence policy at conference yesterday. Recommend you have a read of the motion.

JB_UK70 karma

This will sound a bit provocative, especially given that there's UK in my name, but I am sincerely interested. One of the strongest cases for independence is that Scottish people are fundamentally more left-wing than the rest of the country. Clearly it's unsustainable in the long run for one of the constituent countries in the union to have virtually no Conservative MPs, but to be ruled by a Conservative government. But it strikes me that the SNP are quite a centrist, or perhaps even a centre-right party, in some respects. Most notably, the policies in favour of lowering corporation tax and financial deregulation (at least before the crisis). In fact (and this will sound really provocative), there seems to be some similarity with the Cameron wing of the Conservative party, left-wing socially but centrist or centre-right economically. Of course there are significant differences, notably with the Tories' fondness for privatization and foreign adventurism. And clearly the Cameron wing of the Conservative party is not representative of the back-benches, which still have distinct tinges of authoritarianism from the Thatcher era.

Do you think this is all completely unfair, and how would you respond? Do you think of yourself as left wing, or centrist, or perhaps pragmatic and post-partisan? In what areas do you see Scottish political opinion as fundamentally differing from the rest of the UK?

Edit: Cleaned up and clarified a bit, edits finished ten minutes after posting. Also, just to back up my point, see Let Scotland Flourish, an SNP economic paper from before the financial crisis.

HumzaYousafMSP22 karma

Sometimes I think the labels of being either on the left or the right can be unhelpful. The SNP has always been a party that believes in social justice, but ultimately our core belief is that the decisions about Scotland's future - be they economic or social - are best made by those who care most about Scotland's interests, and that is the Scottish people.

After independence people can vote for a Government on the left, a Government on the right; whatever type of Government they wish. Currently we don't have that right.

lemoninfluence8 karma

Currently we don't have that right.

Do you not elect MPs?

Scotland as a whole, may not get to decide its government, but then neither does the north of England. Instead, we operate as part of a greater entity and as a consequence we are sometimes subject to the rule of governments that we didn't vote for.

Would you urge the Northern English to join you in the fight for independence from a government it didn't vote for?

HumzaYousafMSP7 karma

I think there's something inherently unfair about a Tory led UK Government making deeply unpopular decisions that go against the Scottish interest while only having one elected MP in the entire country.

scottishresident64 karma

As someone who just moved back to Scotland permanently, tell me why Scottish independence is a good idea. Personally, I can only see disadvantages.

HumzaYousafMSP64 karma

It's the natural state for any nation's people to be able to make decisions for themselves. With Holyrood we already make decisions on education, crime, health etc, and it's clear we pursue a very different path to the UK Government. Think what we could do if we had control over our own welfare system, economy, foreign affairs and immigration system.

The core argument for Scottish independence is that all the decisions about Scotland should be made by those who care the most about Scotland - that is by definition the Scottish people.

Nobody suggests for a second that independence would be a magic wand that would rid us of all the difficult challenges that we face. However, be it in good times or bad it is is surely better to have the economic and social levers in our own hands in our own hands rather than at the whim of another Government.

bobbo_57 karma

I have seen lots of material from the Yes Campaign about how great Scotland will be when it's independent and how we will be able to "choose our own direction", but most with very little actual substance. Will the Yes campaign ever give us useful facts, based on actual evidence/research or will voters need to make decisions based on party-political point scoring and rhetoric?

I for one would quite like to know which direction we will choose, but all we get told is that we (ie. the government) get to choose one.

HumzaYousafMSP22 karma

I think the facts and figures substantially back our case for independence. The fact that the Government's own figures show that Scotland pays its own way puts to bed the idea that our nation is reliant upon the rest of the UK.

Now that the Edinburgh Agreement has been signed, the process has been agreed and we can now get talking about the substance of the debate. Yes Scotland has a good introduction to some of the key facts and figures which you can read here

I'm always bewildered when I meet those who don't think that Scotland can survive on its own. We have 25% of Europe's green energy potential, three of the world's top 100 universities and are rich in oil and gas. We're a hub of research and life science technology and have a history of innovation and invention - yet people somehow think we can't survive on our own.

byron_black36 karma

If Scotland does gain independence will I still be a UK citizen or just Scottish? Will we have the option for dual nationality if this is the case?

HumzaYousafMSP26 karma

Yes you will have the option to have dual nationality if you wish.

forty_236 karma

How did you vote in the NATO debate, and why?

HumzaYousafMSP15 karma

I voted for the resolution. For me it is vital that we continue to have a no-nuclear stance and the ability to promote that and influence others at the top table as an independent nation is another reason to vote Yes.

Lost_In_Transylvania33 karma

How do you feel about 16 year-olds voting to decide if Scotland should separate from the UK?

HumzaYousafMSP43 karma

Firstly the debate is about independence not separation.

Secondly I am absolutely delighted that voting equality is being restored for young people - at least here in Scotland anyway.

It is completely unjustifiable that we allow our 16 and 17 year olds to pay tax and contribute towards national services, but not have any say in how they are run. It is illogical to allow our 16 and 17 year olds to have sex and have children but have no say in what kind of Government their children should live under, so I'm very pleased that they will have that right come the referendum in 2014.

uat2d31 karma

Would an independent Scotland be interested in joining the ÔéČuro?

Raerth38 karma

As far as I'm aware, any new members of the EU have to adopt the Euro.

The question is whether Scotland would be seen as a new member or not.

HumzaYousafMSP22 karma

We are currently members of the EU. As a Scot I am an EU citizen. There is no procedure to no longer make me an EU citizen, so therefore we would be negotiating from a position of being within the EU.

HumzaYousafMSP11 karma

Our position is to retain the sterling and I can't see that changing for the forseeable future.

insanityatwork28 karma

HUMZA! This is Eric from Stuart's McMillan's office a few years back. I'm so proud of how far you've come from being my office neighbor in the Parliament to having your own Parliamentary office.

HumzaYousafMSP17 karma

Cheers Eric! Hope you are doing well and feel free to pop your head in the parliamentary office the next time you are in Edinburgh.

mojojo4222 karma

Still Game or Burnistoun?

HumzaYousafMSP29 karma

Still Game... but the one I miss is Chewing The Fat!

CountVonTroll18 karma

Hi, thanks for taking the time to answer questions here!

  • Do you believe a possible UK referendum on EU membership would have a noticeable effect on how Scots vote on their own independence ahead of it?

  • How do you see the EU membership of an independent Scotland developing after a possible vote for independence? Do you expect roadblocks by the rUK or possibly other member states that want to discourage their own regions from seeking independence, such as Spain?

  • Cameron insists on an "in/out" vote for Scotland, but curiously has stated that he would only want a vote on "renegotiation" in case of a possible UK vote on relations to the EU. Any thoughts on that?

HumzaYousafMSP16 karma

Good question!

I just came back from a few days in Brussels. The UK's policy of isolation is really not doing them (or us) any favours. I think an EU referendum by the UK Government will highlight once again to Scots how out of touch David Cameron and the UK Government is with the views of people in Scotland.

The most significant section of the Edinburgh Agreement for me was the final paragraph which commits both Governments to cooperate regardless of what the result of the referendum is. It will be in the UK's interest as well as Scotland's to work together on both states continuing membership within the EU. It's important to remember that we will be negotiating continued membership of the EU from the context of being within the EU, and therefore I expect the process to be fairly swift.

The Spanish Foreign Minister has also publicly stated that Spain would not look to block Scotland's EU membership. Our process here in Scotland is done with the agreement and legitimacy of the UK Government - a historical precedent has been set.

Yid16 karma

If Scotland gets independence how will you stop CB43569 from hijacking your threads?

HumzaYousafMSP16 karma

It's good to see people engaging ;)

JohannQ15 karma

How does Scottish attitude towards "Brussels" compare to the attitude of the English?

HumzaYousafMSP13 karma

There isn't one "Scottish attitude" towards Brussels, however the current policy of isolation that the Tory led UK Government is pursuing is definitely not in line with the values that we espouse here in Scotland.

Fairwolf14 karma

  1. Would an Independent Scotland focus on using Oil as a cornerstone of the economy, or would it focus on using it as a means to provide funds to boost other parts of the economy?

  2. Would you seek to form better ties with the Scandinavian Nations, such as Norway, as has been suggested in the past?

  3. Would any further efforts be made to make the Holyrood Government system more transparent, to make absolutely sure that things such as the expenses scandal that happened in Westminster would not be possible?

  4. If there was one thing you wanted Scotland to be known for by the rest of the world, what would it be?

HumzaYousafMSP9 karma

  1. Although oil revenue is incredible important, we would not focus our economic strategy purely on oil revenue. Scotland has so much potential in renewable technologies, our world class educations sector, tourism, life sciences and so on. It is important that we unleash Scotland's full potential.

  2. Yes

  3. You can never be complacent about democratic structures and more can always be done to improve scrutiny. Holyrood has a great reputation for its accountability and transparency and it was noticeable that during the MPs expenses scandal, we didn't have a similar situation occurring in Holyrood.

  4. Our warm and friendly nature... that and Irn-Bru!

Skuld12 karma

Have there been any thoughts about how the passports would work out with the new state?

What would be the requirements for a member of the current UK to hold a Scottish passport?

HumzaYousafMSP15 karma

In November 2013 we'll be publishing a white paper that will detail the infrastructure of an independent Scotland. Included in that will be detail about our immigration, asylum citizenship and passport entitlement.

double-happiness10 karma

Salt and Sauce or Salt and Vinegar?

By the way, sorry about the racists in this thread - bawbags, one and all!

HumzaYousafMSP14 karma

I'm a Glasgow boy born and bred so Salt and Vinegar it is!

HumzaYousafMSP8 karma

Sorry everyone I didn't get the chance to respond to, but I'm afraid my time is up as there are other conference events I need to get to this evening. Thank you for all your questions and for the chance to discuss these issues with you.