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What to Know About the Breakup of Scotland’s Coalition Government

Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, on Thursday abruptly ended a coalition agreement between his Scottish National Party and the Scottish Green Party, creating a new set of challenges for an embattled leader whose party has been engulfed in a funding scandal since last year.

A decision by the Scottish government to soften climate change targets, and a disagreement within the coalition over trans rights policies, had increased tension between the two parties, which have governed together since August 2021.

But Mr. Yousaf’s decision to scrap the coalition appeared to take Lorna Slater, a co-leader of the Greens, by surprise on Thursday morning. She accused the S.N.P. of “an act of cowardice,” adding that Mr. Yousaf could “no longer be trusted.”

Does this mean the end of the Scottish government?

Not for now. The Scottish Conservatives are pressing for a vote of no confidence in Mr. Yousaf, which the opposition Scottish Labour Party has signaled it would support, and that could take place next week. But that vote relates to confidence in Mr. Yousaf, not the government, so its implications are unclear even if he were to lose. In general terms, the rules make it difficult to force an early election that could drive the S.N.P. out of government in Scotland

For now, the collapse of the coalition means that Mr. Yousaf leads a minority administration. But it is not the first time the S.N.P. has governed as a minority: it did so after the 2007 and 2016 elections. The Scottish Parliament has a more proportional electoral system than the U.K. Parliament, as it was created with the explicit aim of representing the diverse needs of the population, and to encourage compromise between political parties.

Mr. Yousaf said on Thursday that he hoped to continue to cooperate with the Greens but in a less formal way. However the S.N.P. will be two votes short of a majority and will have to reach out to other political parties in the Scottish Parliament to ensure that its key legislation passes.

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