Humza Yousaf Has Become Scotland's New First Minister

The SNP leader easily won a vote of MSPs at the Scottish Parliament.
Humza Yousaf after being elected as the new SNP leader.
Humza Yousaf after being elected as the new SNP leader.
Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Humza Yousaf has been elected Scotland’s new first minister.

The SNP leader easily won a vote by MSPs to become the sixth person to take on the role since the Scottish Parliament was set up in 1999.

He has also become the first Muslim to be elected leader of one of the devolved nations.

Yousaf’s nomination was backed by 71 MSPs, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross came second on 31, Labour leader Anas Sarwar received 22 votes and Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton was backed by four MSPs.

It means the 37-year-old is the parliament’s nominee to become first minister and will now be formally confirmed in the post by King Charles.

The result comes a day after he narrowly defeated Kate Forbes to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as SNP boss.

Yousaf’s victory followed a fractious five-week leadership contest triggered by Sturgeon’s surprise resignation last month.

The closeness of the result - he beat his rival by 52% to 48% in the second round - demonstrated the deep splits within the SNP and the scale of the challenge he faces in bringing the party back together.

His first challenge will be to form a cabinet that can re-energise the Scottish government, which has come under fire for its handling of the NHS and the economy, as well as its failure to build new ferries to serve the Western Isles.

One major question will be whether he offers a job to Forbes, who served as finance secretary under Sturgeon but was severely critical of Yousaf’s performance as a minister during the leadership campaign.

One MP told HuffPost UK: “If he’s serious about uniting the party, he should make Kate his deputy and also give her a big economic portfolio.

“But whether he decides to do that remains to be seen.”

Addressing the Scottish Parliament for the first time as SNP leader, Yousaf referred to the fact that he and Anas Sarwar are both of Pakistani Muslim heritage.

He said: “It’s also quite a signal of the progress that we have made as a country, as well as a parliament, that two of the candidates putting themselves forward [to be first minister] are from minority ethnic communities.

“That the majority of MSPs in this parliament belong to parties led by two people of colour, two people of the Muslim faith.

“The fact that no-one bats an eyelid at this tells me we are making progress in our nation for which we should all be very, very proud.”

He said his government would “listen carefully and pay respect” to the views of all MSPs while standing up to any attempts to “undermine devolution” - a reference to the UK government’s decision to block Holyrood’s gender reform law.


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