Who is Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s new First Minister?
Move over Nicola, a new First Minister is here to stay (hopefully longer than Liz Truss)
We finally know who Scotland’s next First Minister is going to be. Following Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation last month, Humza Yousaf has won the SNP’s leadership contest, meaning he will begin leading Scotland this Wednesday.
Yousaf gained 52.1 per cent of the overall vote from party members, beating second-placed candidate Kate Forbes, followed by Ash Regan. Over 54,000 votes were recorded, around a 70 per cent turnout rate of the SNP’s membership.
Speaking on Monday afternoon, he said that “to serve my country as First Minister will be the greatest privilege and honour of my life”.
“We will be the generation that delivers independence for Scotland”, he told an audience in Murrayfield, Edinburgh, after congratulating his opponents on a well-fought campaign.
A lot of people aren’t familiar Humza Yousaf – so here’s everything you need to know about Scotland’s 37-year-old new leader:
First elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2011 at the age of 26 (the youngest anyone had ever become an MSP at the time) he quickly rose through the ranks of the SNP. Yousaf served as a junior minister from 2012 to 2018 before being promoted to Justice Secretary by Nicola Sturgeon.
In 2021, he became Scotland’s Health Secretary. Whilst generally considered a strong communicator, during his time in the role he came under fire for issues such as his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and record NHS waiting times.
Waiting times under his watch have been described as a “ticking time bomb” by Conservative Shadow Health Secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane. Yousaf also faced calls to resign over a family trip to London during the same week that the World Health Organization stated that six out of ten European Covid hotspots were in Scotland. He later defended the holiday, saying “my family don’t see me much at all”.
Yousaf has continually supported Nicola Sturgeon’s socially progressive policies. Recently, he has voiced his support for the government’s controversial Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill, which would make it easier for transgender individuals in Scotland to legally change their gender.
This is in contrast to his fellow leadership contest opponents, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan. Regan resigned from her cabinet position in protest against the bill and Forbes urged Nicola Sturgeon to delay its implementation. Forbes has also voiced her opposition against abortion rights and same-sex marriage, a factor which is believed to have added to Yousaf’s appeal towards the SNP’s mainly liberal, left-leaning base.
On the issue of Scottish independence, Yousaf is strongly supportive. But he has voiced concerns over Sturgeon’s existing plan to use the results of the next UK general election as a basis for a second referendum.
Instead, he advocates gathering popular support amongst the Scottish public to “a consistent majority”. In his view, with a larger majority who support independence, “it becomes politically impossible to deny the voice of the Scottish people”.
Reacting to the election result, outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Yousaf “will be an outstanding leader & First Minister and I could not be prouder to have him succeed me.
Humza Yousaf is expected to be sworn in as First Minister on Wednesday.