What happened during Humza Yousaf’s first FMQs session? Protests explained as disruptors removed from Holyrood

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Protesters yelled from the public gallery of the chamber in Holyrood as Humza Yousaf took his first First Minister's Questions session

It's been a whirlwind few days for Humza Yousaf after he was announced as Scotland's First Minister.

He prepared to take part in his first First Minister's Questions session on Thursday 30 March, but chaos reined as protesters took to the public gallery. There were at least five disruptions within the first 15 minutes of the event.

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Demonstrations in the public gallery have become commonplace during Holyrood sessions in recent months. It comes after protesters voiced their disapproval after the Scottish parliament voted through the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in December. 

But what happened during Yousaf's first session, and what were protesters demonstrating about?

Here's everything you need to know.

What happened during Humza Yousaf’s first FMQ session? 

The beginning of the new First Minister’s session kicked off with disruption from protesters yelling from the public gallery. The session was eventually suspended by presiding officer Alison Johnstone after it was disrupted five times within the first 15 minutes.

The first disruption happened before the first question had even been asked by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross. After the first interruption, Ross continued with his questioning of the new First Minister before being interrupted multiple times throughout his attempt to exchange with Yousaf.

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Police removed the demonstrators from the public gallery, as well as other spectators being removed. A group of schoolchildren who were also in attendance watching the session, but were later permitted to return to the chamber at the request of Johnstone.

Protesters were removed by police from the public gallery after yelling during FMQs. (Credit: PA)Protesters were removed by police from the public gallery after yelling during FMQs. (Credit: PA)
Protesters were removed by police from the public gallery after yelling during FMQs. (Credit: PA) | PA

She said: "I don't think I can adequately express my deep regret that such action is required in our national parliament. I'm extremely sorry for the overwhelming majority of those who have travelled to the parliament today to watch their elected representatives at work."

Yousaf praised the presiding officer for the decision in allowing the schoolchildren back in, saying that they were "behaving much better than some of the adults that were in the public gallery". Ross agreed that he was grateful that the schoolchildren could remain to watch the proceedings, but added that the parliament "must do something to stop this going forward."

What were the protesters demonstrating against?

It has now been confirmed that the protesters in the public gallery were anti-oil climate activists. Some of those in attendance were from the This Is Rigged pressure group

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Some could be seen and heard urging the new First Minister to take action on climate change and push against any new oil fields in Scotland. It comes amid a campaign by climate protesters against the opening of Rosebank oil field in Shetland, which is expected to be pushed through by the Westminster Tory government.

What else happened at Yousaf's first FMQs?

After the disruption was cleared and the children were permitted back into the chamber, Scottish Tories leader Ross took aim at the new leadership at the top of the SNP. He said that Yousaf had appointed a "cabinet of lackeys", after he revealed his new appointments yesterday.

Ross also criticised the First Minister for scrapping ministerial roles in tourism and social security. He added that Yousaf was "another nationalist leader", taking aim at the creation of the role of minister for independence and the priority of it over other issues.

Yousaf defended the move. He said that he believes that the role was crucial for Scotland as his government aims for independence.

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Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar took a swipe at the legacy Yousaf has left behind in his previous role as Health Secretary. Sarwar said stated that more than 11,000 children and teenagers had waited 18-weeks for a mental health appointment, while 14,000 others had their referral refused.

The new First Minister apologised for those who had experience longer and standard waiting times, but added that Sarwar did not acknowledge the impact that the Covid pandemic had on the ability to facilitate appointments.

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