Humza Yousaf on Track to Become Scotland’s First Minister

Head and shoulders shot of Humza Yousaf

Members of the Scottish National Party (SNP) elected Humza Yousaf as their party leader yesterday, 27th of March.

As the duly elected leader of the largest party in the Scottish Parliament, Humza Yousaf will now be put forward by the SNP to be First Minister of Scotland.

The selection process for First Minister takes place today, 28th of March by a vote of all MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

Business of the Scottish Parliament 28th March 2023

Political parties in the Parliament can put forward their own candidate for First Minister. Voting then takes place. Once a decision has been reached, the Presiding Officer of the Parliament (Alison Johnstone) then recommends that person to King Charles III.

On a 70% turnout of members through both online and postal voting Humza Yousaf was elected leader of the SNP on the second round. Humza Yousaf: 26,032 (52.1%), Kate Forbes 23,890 (47.9%)

In his victory speech Humza Yousaf quoted words from the Labour politician John Smith. Humza Yousaf, if elected as First Minister, said:

“My immediate priority will be to continue to protect every Scot as far as we can from the harm inflicted by the cost of living crisis, to recover and reform our NHS and other vital public services, to support our wellbeing economy and to improve the life chances of people across our country.

“I will move quickly to develop plans to extend childcare, improve rural housing, support small business, and boost innovation.

“I will bring forward reforms of the criminal justice system and work with local government to empower our local authorities.”

He reaffirmed the aim to work towards a Net Zero country but one without fuel poverty. He also said that he would work constructively with the UK and other devolved governments.

And for the wider Scottish citizenry who support independence he had this to say:

“My solemn commitment to you is that I will kickstart our grassroots, civic-led movement and ensure our drive for independence is in 5th gear. The people of Scotland need independence now more than ever before, and we will be the generation that delivers it.”

Political reaction

Political opponents have been quick to react to Humza Yousaf’s election. Orkney Constituency MSP Liam McArthur, LibDem said:

“I congratulate Humza Yousaf on his election. As the first member of an ethnic minority to lead the SNP, and in all likelihood the country, he deserves credit for this significant achievement.

“Those hoping for a change in direction or a focus on the day job, however, will be left feeling disappointed. Rather than choosing to focus on the challenges facing our health and care services, education or Scotland’s faltering economy, Mr Yousaf appears only to have eyes for independence.  

“From an islander perspective, Mr Yousaf’s declaration that there will be ‘no empty promises or easy soundbites’ will have come as something of a surprise. People in Orkney are still waiting for the RET on Pentland Firth routes that, as the former Transport Minister, Mr Yousaf promised back in 2018.   Getting round to delivering this ‘empty promise’ would be a good start, but Mr Yousaf could also usefully confirm that he is committed to the replacement of ferries on Orkney’s internal services.”

The leader of the Labour Party in Scotland is Anas Sarwar he congratulated Humza Yousaf on his win and called for a general election in Scotland. He said:

“While I question his mandate and the SNP’s record, it is important to reflect on the election of what will be the first First Minister from an ethnic minority background. Regardless of your politics, this is a significant moment for Scotland.

“But while Scotland faces the twin crises of the cost of living and the NHS emergency, it is clear that the SNP does not have the answers that Scotland needs. This chaotic and divided party is out of touch and out of ideas. Humza Yousaf has inherited the SNP’s woeful record, but he has not inherited Nicola Sturgeon’s mandate. We need an election now, and Scottish Labour is the change that Scotland needs.”

Douglas Ross is leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party in Scotland. He serves in both Houses of Parliament as an MSP and an MP. He referred to Humza Yousaf as a self-styled ‘First Activist’ for Scottish Independence.

Douglas Ross commented:

“As the main opposition party we will hold Humza Yousaf to account when he lets the Scottish people down. Unfortunately, we have serious doubts about his ability. For the good of Scotland, we hope he does not lurch from failure to failure as he did when he was Nicola Sturgeon’s Health Secretary, Justice Secretary and Transport Minister.

Douglas Ross accused the SNP of being obsessed with independence.

The Scottish Greens are in a coalition (which is not a coalition) with the SNP and have two Ministers who serve in the Scottish Government. They threatened to leave that agreement if the SNP members elected someone as leader that they did not approve of. The Co-leaders of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater , met with Humza Yousaf shortly after his election for a photo op. A meeting of the Scottish Greens Party Council unanimously voted for the party’s MSPs to support Humza Yousaf in becoming First Minister and to continue with the Bute House Agreement.

L to R Patrick Harvie Humza Yousaf and Lorna Slater pictured together in Edinburgh
Scottish Green Co Leaders with Humza Yousaf

Co-leader Lorna Slater said:

“The scale of support in our party is a tribute to the success of the positive and progressive agenda in the Bute House Agreement which has been supported by Humza Yousaf in his successful campaign. 

“Climate justice and equality are at the heart of our shared vision, and we are delighted to be working with Humza Yousaf on delivering on our shared co-operation agreement.”

Humza Yousaf has been a Member of the Scottish Parliament since 2011. He is the MSP Glasgow Pollok (Constituency). In the most recent Sturgeon cabinet he was appointed Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care. Born in 1985 in Glasgow, Humza Yousaf is a Muslim and is married with two children.

Fiona Grahame

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