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Give me an 'I'! Give me an 'N'!...

Humza's Glasgow BIS speech has made things worse for him and his party.

Sunday, April 21, 2024


by Rab Clark

Humza Yousaf deserves credit for attending the BIS march/rally in Glasgow yesterday. Many (us included) felt that he wouldn't show, that he'd be advised to give it a wide berth in view of growing outrage over SNP-related woes and his calamitous Sky interview on Friday.

The live broadcast yesterday was beset with buffering issues (for us anyway) and so we rummaged around this morning for complete footage to check the extent to which technical hitches had affected the 'flow' of HY's speech. Happily, the National had despatched someone to capture the raw excitement in the crowd as he spoke. This link captures the atmosphere. We leave it to viewers to assess whether or not there was any 'flow' to interrupt:

(1) The National on X: "'You don’t look finished to me, my friends' 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Listen to every word of First Minister @HumzaYousaf's powerful speech at the Scottish independence rally in Glasgow hosted by @believeinscot - and see if you can spot yourself in the crowd! https://t.co/KX59QEAjhU" / X (twitter.com)

It is customary for anyone speaking in public to prepare their speech. It helps to have a beginning, a middle and an end. In that order.

We've now viewed the footage three times and cannot identify any 'structure' worthy of the name.

To begin with, he flattered the crowd: 'Let me tell you, you look bloody gorgeous Glasgow!' and remarked upon their beautiful diversity. And he posed the interesting, nay philosophical question 'Why? Why? Why do we do what we do?'. Having raised an existential question which would have allowed him to pinpoint something specific, he left the crowd none the wiser as he rabbited on about Gaza, the WASPI women and one of the groups under whose banner the whole event was advertised: 'Let's give it up for the pensioners!'. At this point many were already giving up for other reasons but he ploughed on and finally, finally, after eight minutes of shouting 'Friends!' with stuff inserted in-between each exhortation, he arrived at the topic of independence.

This is the section of the speech which Humza's people have deemed for distribution via social media, presumably because it's the closest they could find to a 'highlight':

(1) Humza Yousaf on X: "There’s no better gift we can leave the next generation than an independent country that’s theirs to create in their own image. No one can govern our country better than the people of Scotland. Let’s not just believe in a better future for Scotland. Let’s make it happen. https://t.co/rcZ0M5QTYO" / X (twitter.com)

There's no way of telling whether or not the comments in reaction to that tweet are at all typical of general feeling but they are damning.

Let's be fair...

Not many people enjoy the prospect of public speaking and few of us ever have to do it. But it is an essential skill for politicians and the art of rhetoric is far from dead. George Galloway remains one of the foremost speakers of recent times and his recent appearances in the House of Commons prove that he has lost none of the eloquence that he deployed so memorably in 2005 at the US Senate. Ming Campbell had an extraordinary ability with words and could convey different forms of punctuation, including dashes, colons, brackets etc by mere inflection. Tommy Sheridan, as everyone knows, can make the dictation of an uneventful weather report sound like a call to arms.

Humza is not a gifted public speaker. His track record is devoid of evidence that he possesses any of the abilities mentioned above. But it is reasonable to expect him to make an effort.

There is no excuse for that deplorable performance yesterday. The event was months in the offing. He is the First Minister of the country and has plenty of people advising him on all sorts of issues. Yes, he's 'busy', as he should be in that position, but that's what delegation is all about and it is flatly unbelievable that he, or anyone else for that matter, felt it appropriate to let him extemporise yesterday. Because that's what he did.

If Humza had done no more than use the old 'call and response' routine then he could've managed to stir the crowd whilst building up to a memorable one-word message:

'Give me an 'I'!'


Give me an 'N'!'


To complete the whole word, ending in a joyous

'What do we get?'


would have taken approximately one minute and no-one would have left George Square in any doubt as to his priorities.

Instead, he wasted ten minutes of everyone's life, showed contempt for those who attended in person, and foolishly invoked past independence figures whose achievements and commitment serve to underscore his own shortcomings as leader.

His next speech as leader should be his last - a statement of resignation, effective immediately.

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