Scotland’s parliament poised to confirm Humza Yousaf as first minister
EDINBURGH: Scotland’s devolved lawmakers are set to confirm Humza Yousaf as the country’s new first minister on Tuesday (Mar 28), after he narrowly won the contest to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as Scottish National Party (SNP) leader.
Yousaf beat out two SNP rivals on Monday to clinch the party’s top job, vowing to rejuvenate its signature policy of pursuing independence for Scotland which has stalled in recent months.
The 37-year-old is the first Muslim leader of a major United Kingdom political party and will be the youngest first minister since devolution created the Scottish parliament in 1999.
“We should all take pride in the fact that today we have sent a clear message that your colour of skin, or your faith, is not a barrier to leading the country we all call home,” Yousaf said after winning the SNP leadership race.
Promising to be a leader “for all of Scotland”, he pledged to “kick-start” a civic movement that would “ensure our drive for independence is in fifth gear”.
“We will be the generation that delivers independence for Scotland,” he declared in his victory speech.
Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) will vote to confirm a new first minister at lunchtime, with Yousaf ensured of succeeding Sturgeon given that the SNP is the largest party.
He will then be sworn in at a ceremony on Wednesday.
The seismic shift in Scottish politics follows Sturgeon’s surprise resignation announcement last month after more than eight years at the helm.
The 52-year-old said she was quitting because she felt unable to give “every ounce of energy” to the job.
But it followed a difficult period for her government, during which support for independence slipped.
Recent surveys show that around 45 per cent of Scots support Scotland leaving the United Kingdom – the same tally recorded in a 2014 referendum which London insists settles the matter for a generation.
Yousaf said on Monday that he would continue Sturgeon’s policy of pushing the Conservative government there to allow another vote.
That was immediately rebuked in London, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman telling reporters that the new SNP leader should focus on economic and policy issues “that matter” to Scottish voters.
“That’s what the (UK) government will be focused on,” the spokesman noted.