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Salmond’s electoral pact idea dismissed as ‘fantasy’ by Yousaf

Humza Yousaf’s spokesperson has dismissed as “fantasy” the idea the First Minister would agree an electoral pact with the Alba Party to gain its support ahead of upcoming no-confidence votes.

Mr Yousaf is attempting to build bridges with the other party leaders at Holyrood as he fights for his political future, inviting them to talks at his official residence.

The Alba Party leader, Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond, said a “top line” of any discussion with Mr Yousaf would be the idea of reviving the Scotland United strategy – which would see a single pro-independence candidate stand in each Scottish constituency.

He told the Sunday Times: “If you remember the Scotland United idea from last year which Humza just ignored, which was very popular with the Yes groups and amongst SNP supporters.

“It would be difficult to revive it in full now because obviously candidates have been selected (for the general election), but it could be revived in part, or there could be an understanding for the Scottish elections in two years’ time. So a discussion along these lines, so it’s a menu of independence options.”

But a spokesperson for Mr Yousaf dismissed the idea, saying: “This is fantasy. There is no possibility of the First Minister agreeing any deal like this with Alex Salmond.”

Meanwhile the Alba Party’s Westminster leader, Neale Hanvey, said the party is “not saying we are going to save” Mr Yousaf.

Amid the tight parliamentary arithmetic at Holyrood, the vote of the Alba Party’s sole MSP Ash Regan could be crucial to Humza Yousaf’s political survival.

Mr Hanvey told Times Radio that the party has “come to absolutely no firm conclusion” about whether to support him.

He said: “We’re not saying we are going to save Humza Yousaf. The situation that Humza Yousaf has got himself into is a matter of his own making. And, you know, there is a range of views around whether he will be able to tough it out or whether he’s already toast.”

He added: “We’ll wait to see what the First Minister comes back with. You know, we have an open position at the moment.

“We’re willing to listen to what he has to say, but we have come to absolutely no firm conclusion about whether we’re going to support him or not.”

Ms Regan, a former SNP MSP, has written to Mr Yousaf to offer him an “early opportunity” to discuss three clear priorities – Scottish independence, women’s rights and the future of the Grangemouth oil refinery.

Mr Yousaf terminated the powersharing deal between the SNP and Scottish Greens on Thursday.

He is now facing a vote of no confidence, tabled by the Scottish Conservatives, while Scottish Labour has tabled one of no confidence in the Scottish Government as a whole.

The First Minister has written to the leaders of Scotland’s political parties to seek “common ground”.

He hopes to hold separate meetings with each group at Bute House in Edinburgh to discuss how they can “contribute constructively”, while acknowledging that there are “strong feelings” about the upcoming confidence votes.

Letters were sent to the Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour, the Scottish Greens, the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Alba Party on Friday night.

In his letters, Mr Yousaf emphasised that the Scottish Parliament has previous experience of minority administrations which had delivered benefits for “people, communities and businesses”.

He said: “I recognise the strong feelings in relation to the confidence debate our parliament is set to have next week.

“Notwithstanding that, I am writing to all Holyrood party groups to ask them to meet me next week, in separate meetings, to discuss their concerns and indeed priorities, in a hopefully constructive spirit.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who lodged a motion of no confidence in Mr Yousaf, said: “This is a humiliating and embarrassing letter, in which Humza Yousaf is begging to be allowed to keep his job.”

The Scottish Greens said they would respond formally to the First Minister in due course, but otherwise their position is unchanged.

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie has said it is “pretty clear” Mr Yousaf will not be able to unite Holyrood – urging the SNP to consider finding a replacement for him.

Leaders of the other parties have not yet issued responses to the letters.

Speaking on Friday, Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar said: “I am more than happy to engage with people of all parties, but it is clear that Humza Yousaf is out of time.”