Humza Yousaf has won the Scottish National Party leadership contest and is set to become Scotland’s First Minister replacing Nicola Sturgeon, it was announced Monday.
“I will be a First Minister for all of Scotland. I will work every minute of every day to earn and to re-earn your respect and your trust,” Yousaf said in his acceptance speech.
Yousaf won 52% of the final votes cast, running on a platform dedicated to delivering Scottish independence, combating the cost-of-living crisis, rejoining the European Union, banning conversion practices, and transitioning to renewable energy, amongst other campaign promises.
“My immediate priority will be to continue to protect every Scot as far as we possibly can from the harm inflicted by the cost-of-living crisis, to recover and reform our NHS and other vital public services, [and] to support our wellbeing economy to improve the life chances of people right across this country,” he said.
Yousaf, who has served as a Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow Pollok since 2016 and for Glasgow between 2011 and 2016, is the first Muslim and non-white cabinet minister to have served in the Scottish Government.
“To serve my country as First Minister will be the greatest privilege and honor of my life,” Yousaf added.
Yousaf’s victory was confirmed at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield rugby ground on Monday afternoon after a six-week campaign where the three candidates spent much of the contest criticizing each other’s record in a series of personal attacks, Reuters reports.
Yousaf takes over a party with an overriding objective to end Scotland’s three-centuries-long union with England.
But while about four in 10 Scots still support independence, according to a poll this month, the departure of Sturgeon – a charismatic and commanding leader – may slow some of the momentum behind a break-up of the United Kingdom.
There is no agreed strategy for how to force a new referendum – one of the reasons Sturgeon resigned.
The often bad-tempered leadership contest has relieved some pressure on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is dealing with divisions in his own party, waves of industrial action and high levels of inflation.
Yousaf pointed to his own background – born in Glasgow, with a father from Pakistan and mother from Kenya – and views as examples of the inclusive, socially liberal and multi-ethnic Scotland that the SNP has promoted.
Yousaf also said during the campaign an independent Scotland should look at ditching the British monarchy.
Scotland voted against independence by 55% to 45% in 2014. Britain’s vote to leave the EU two years later when a majority of Scots wanted to stay, and Scotland’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, brought new support for independence.
However, an opinion poll this month showed the backing for independence dropped to 39%, or 46% when “don’t knows” are excluded. That compares with a record 58% in 2020.
Michael Russell, the president of the SNP, said a week ago the party was in a “tremendous mess.”
The Scottish government’s first and only Muslim cabinet minister, Yousaf will be sworn in as Scotland’s leader on Wednesday if he wins a vote in the country’s parliament the day before.
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