Pakistani-origin Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Humza Yousaf on March 28 won the Scottish National Party (SNP) leadership contest and is set to be named as Scotland’s new First Minister, replacing Nicola Sturgeon.
The 37-year-old MSP served as the Health and Social Care Minister in Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet until she announced her resignation last month, triggering a leadership contest within the governing party for the devolved region.
Mr. Yousaf defeated his closest rival Finance Minister Kate Forbes, who spent some of her formative years in India, where her parents worked as Christian missionaries, and now faces a vote at the Scottish Parliament of Holyrood on March 28 before being formally confirmed as the region’s First Minister.
“It is hard for me to find the words to describe just how honoured I am to be entrusted by our membership of the SNP to be the party’s next leader and to be on the cusp of being our country’s next First Minister,” Mr. Yousaf said in his victory speech in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.
Mr. Yousaf said he felt “like the luckiest man in the world” as he thanked his wife and children for their support. “I feel like the luckiest man in the world to be standing here as leader of the SNP, a party I joined almost 20 years ago and that I love so dearly,” he said.
Mr. Yousaf said he would serve “in the interests of all party members” and “lead Scotland in the interests of all of our citizens, whatever your political allegiance”. He vowed to be a First Minister “for all of Scotland”.
The Glasgow-born and bred politician is the son of Pakistan-born Muzaffar Yousaf, whose family migrated from Mian Channu to Glasgow in the 1960s. Mr. Yousaf’s mother, Shaaista Bhutta, was born in Kenya and migrated with her family to Scotland too.
He touched upon his migrant roots in his victory speech as he shared that his grandparents arrived in Scotland in the 1960s barely able to speak a word of English and would not have believed “in their wildest dreams” that their grandson would one day be set to be elected the First Minister of Scotland.
In 2016, Mr. Yousaf made history by taking his oath as a new MSP in English and also in Urdu while dressed in the traditional Scottish kilt.
“Taking the oath in Urdu after having done it in English is making headlines across the world – the best thing is, it is in praise of Scotland for being a tolerant and open country where diversity is celebrated. We are not without our problems or challenges but very proud of how many Scots believe our tartan is better with as many different threads woven throughout it,” he said at the time.
It is expected that Mr. Yousaf will now go on to be elected by the Scottish Parliament. Under the rules, in the unlikely event of a First Minister not being elected within 28 days, an election must be held.
The leadership contest for the governing SNP has been fiercely fought, which Mr. Yousaf described as “bruising” as he sought to strike a conciliatory note with his opponents.
“Leadership elections, by their very nature, can be bruising,” Mr. Yousaf said, adding, “However, in the SNP we are a family. Over the last five weeks, we may have been competitors or supporters of different candidates.” “We are no longer team Humza, or team Ash, or team Kate, we are one team. We will be the team, we will be the generation that delivers independence for Scotland,” Mr. Yousaf said.
In the first round of voting in a three-way contest, Mr. Yousaf had 24,336 votes (48%), Forbes 20,559 (40%) and Former Minister Ash Regan 5,599 (11%). When the second preference was distributed in the second round, Mr. Yousaf was declared the winner with 26,032 (52%) votes, and Forbes had 23,890 (48%).
The winner now faces the crucial challenges of defining a clear plan for the independence of Scotland, which the SNP campaigns for, progressing with controversial gender recognition reforms and alleviating the cost-of-living crisis.
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