#KNT Web Desk
Pakistani-origin Humza Yousaf is the new leader of the Scottish National Party and will be the first Muslim to lead a country in Western Europe when he becomes Scotland’s first ethnic minority and first Muslim first minister on Tuesday at a time when the UK has its first Hindu, Indian-origin prime minister.
Yousaf, a practicing Muslim who was fasting for Ramadan during the contest, was announced the winner on Monday afternoon, defeating Kate Forbes and Ash Regan in the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon.
The contest saw 72,169 SNP members voting; they were asked to list three candidates in order of preference. If one candidate got more than 50% of the first preference, they were deemed elected. Since no one did, second preference votes for the third-placed candidate, Regan, were redistributed to Forbes and Yousaf. In the second round Forbes, the health secretary, who was raised in India by Christian missionaries, came second with 48% of the vote and Yousaf won with 52% of the vote. The contest exposed profound policy differences between the three candidates, not least on Sturgeon’s controversial gender recognition reform bill, which has been blocked by Westminster. Regan resigned from government over it whereas Yousaf plans to challenge the block in court.It was a bruisingand bitter contest and Yousaf, like Sunak, inherits a divided party and country.
Aged 37, Yousaf is Scotland’s youngest first minister and was the party establishment’s favourite to win. He was the most experienced of the candidates, having served in government roles since 2012. But during the leadership campaign his record in government came under attack.
His father, Muzaffar, was born in Mian Channu, Pakistani Punjab, and emigrated with his family to Scotland in the 1960s. His mother, Shaaista, was born in Kenya, and her family also later moved to Scotland, where she met Muzaffar. Wearing a hijab, she could be seen shedding a tear as the results were read out.
Yousaf in his first speech as party leader gave thanks to his grandparents who made the trip from Punjab to Scotland over 60 years ago, arriving with barely a word of English. “They could not have imagined in their wildest dreams that their grandson would one day be on the cusp of being the next first minister of Scotland. Today we have sent a clear message that the colour of your skin or faith is not a barrier to leading the country we call home. From the Punjab to our Parliament, this is a journey over generations that reminds us we should always celebrate the migrants who contribute so much to our country,” he said.
He also said he wanted Scotland to rejoin the EU and vowed to put Scotland’s drive for independence “into fifth gear”.
Leader of the Scottish Tories Douglas Ross said: “We encourage him to govern for all of Scotland and abandon his divisive plans to push independence relentlessly. Unfortunately, we have serious concerns about his ability. We hope he does not lurch from failure to failure as he did when he was health secretary, justice secretary and transport minister.” Leader of Scottish Labour Anas Sarwar said he questioned Yousaf’s mandate and that while “Scotland faces the twin crises of the cost of living and the NHS emergency, it is clear that the SNP does not have the answers that Scotland needs.”
A spokesperson for the Scotland branch of the Indian National Student Association said: “We congratulate Humza Yousaf for being elected as first minister and we also congratulate Kate Forbes for giving a good fight. Most of the Indian diaspora were rooting for Kate because of her Indian connection – as she was raised in India – and she is seen regularly at Indian events here, such as our Republic Day events in Edinburgh, whereas we have never seen Humza at any Indian community events. We look forward to fostering a positive and strong relationship with the new Scotland first minister for the well-being of Indian students and the Indian diaspora in Scotland.”