Pakistan-origin Humza Yousaf becomes new Scottish leader
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has elected Pakistan-origin Humza Yousaf as its new leader, making him the first Muslim to lead the country of 5.5 million people.
Yousaf, who won the 14-daylong race to replace Nicola Sturgeon, is the first person of color to lead a country in Western Europe and the first Muslim leader of a major UK political party.
Notably, his victory was not a foregone conclusion as Yousaf faced stiff competition from Kate Forbes, the outgoing finance secretary, and Joanna Cherry, a prominent lawyer and politician.
But at the end, Humza won with 52.1% of the final vote of party members.
The Glasgow-born politician narrowly defeated his closest rival and former colleague Kate Forbes, who took 47.9%.
Yousaf – the outgoing health secretary – spoke about his own background as an ethnic minority and vowed to fight for the rights of all minorities.
Yousaf’s election comes at a time when the SNP is facing a number of challenges. The UK government has opposed a new referendum on Scottish independence, and a recent Supreme Court ruling has dealt a blow to the SNP’s plans.
Mr. Humza will also have to navigate internal divisions within the party, which were exposed during the leadership contest.
His election as leader is a historic moment for Scotland and for the Muslim community in Europe.
In his victory speech, the 37-year-old emphasized his commitment to independence and his belief that Scotland’s future should be decided by the Scottish people.
“The people of Scotland need independence now, more than ever before and we will be the generation that delivers independence,” he said in his victory speech.
He added that his grandparents, who arrived in Scotland from Pakistan in the 1960s— barely speaking any English— would not have believed “in their wildest dreams” that their grandson would one day become first minister of Scotland.
“We should all take pride in the fact that today we have sent a clear message: that your colour of skin or, indeed, your faith, is not a barrier to leading the country that we all call home,” Yousaf further added.
Coming from a background of first-generation immigrants, Yousaf’s father was born in Pakistan while his mother was born into a family of Punjabi descent in Kenya.
He attended a private school in Glasgow and pursued politics at Glasgow University.
In 2011, he was elected to the Scottish Parliament as an additional member for the Glasgow region, and during his swearing-in ceremony, he took his oath in English and Urdu.
A year later, Yousaf was appointed to the Scottish cabinet and held various positions until his current role as the country’s health secretary.
He married to Gail Lythgoe, a former SNP worker, in 2010, but parted ways with her after seven years. He then married Nadia El-Nakla in 2019.