Humza Yousaf, 37, a Muslim and the son of Pakistani immigrants, is the new face of freedom in Scotland. Yousaf beat two candidates, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan, with whom he was fighting to pick up a staff from Nicola Sturgeon as a minister in the midst of a serious crisis that the Scottish National Party (SNP) was going through.
Sturgeon announced her resignation six weeks ago, amid divisions over the Trans Scotland Act and after a second independence referendum was stalled by the High Court. Her husband Peter Murrell also resigned from his post as executive director of the SNP over the party’s credit scandal and after a drop in the number of members from 125,000 to 72,000 was reported.
More than 70,000 campaigners took part in the last fight for Sturgeon’s succession, which was mainly a contest and antagonism between Yousaf and Kate Forbes, the daughter of Evangelists, and against abortion and gay marriage, with Ash Regan in third place at odds.
Yousaf, who grew up politically in the shadow of Sturgeon (with whom she held the Justice, Transport and Health portfolios), tried to draw a line between her religious beliefs and her politics. He was the candidate to the left of the three in the race and defined himself as a “social progressive”, aligning with Sturgeon in the last battle of Trans-legislation which contributed a lot to his case.
In his campaign, Yousaf defended Sturgeon as an “extremely popular leader” and highlighted his achievements during his nine-year tenure. He announced his intention to stand up to the British government in the Trans-Law trial, and emphasized his defense of Scottish independence, although he noted certain gaps with his predecessor’s policy.
Unlike Sturgeon, the new SNP leader believes the next general election cannot be held with a de facto second referendum, as Scots aged 16 and 17 will not be able to vote. Yousaf stated that the right to call time for a new referendum will come when the majority of Scots demand it (the “no” to independence won by 55% to 45% of the vote in 2014 and reflect the active division of Scottish society. into two similar parties).
Yousaf presented himself in the campaign as an “experienced” candidate, the youngest MP in Scottish history (at 26) and with a career spanning more than a decade in senior government positions. Sturgeon’s successor has also promised “unity and compromise” between the various factions of Scottish nationalism, after the polarization caused by the independence leader took its final turn.
Yousaf obtained 52% of the vote to Kate Forbes’ 48%, among the second choices. The narrow victory over his rival, who has harshly criticized Sturgeon for the war, has led to deep divisions within the ranks of the Scottish nation.
The new Glasgow-born prime minister, a father of two daughters, called himself “a proud Scotsman and a European” and called for a return to the European Union, after implicitly criticizing the British government for his human rights.
“We will always celebrate immigrants and all that they bring to this country,” Yousaf emphasized. “We will act decisively to alleviate the crisis of life (…) We need to be independent now more than ever, and we will be the generation that achieves freedom.”
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