UK World News

Hamza Yousaf elected as Scottish National Party’s new leader

LONDON (AP) — Scotland’s governing Scottish National Party has elected Humza Yousaf as its new leader.

The 37-year-old son of South Asian immigrants is set to become the first person of color to serve as Scotland’s first minister.

Yousaf, who currently is Scotland’s health minister, beat two other Scottish lawmakers in a contest to replace First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. She unexpectedly stepped down last month.

He faces the challenge of uniting the SNP and re-energizing its campaign for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.

The SNP’s 72,000 members chose among Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and lawmaker Ash Regan.

The new party leader is due to be confirmed as first minister by Scottish lawmakers on Tuesday.

The health secretary was endorsed by far more MSPs and MPs than his two rivals, with Deputy First Minister John Swinney predicting that Mr Yousaf would “complete our journey to independence”.

He is undoubtedly the most experienced of the three leadership contenders, having served in government since 2012 in roles including justice secretary and transport minister. 

His supporters say he is a polished communicator who is best placed to unite the party and maintain the power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Greens after what has been a deeply fractious leadership contest.

Mr Yousaf is a close ally of Ms Sturgeon and is generally seen as the “continuity candidate” who would seek to continue the work of the outgoing first minister. 

He is the only one of the three contenders to have said they would challenge the UK government’s block on Ms Sturgeon’s controversial gender recognition reforms in the courts, arguing that independence will only be won if the party continues to push “progressive values”. 

But he has stressed that he would only go to court if the legal advice suggested that a challenge could be successful.

Mr Yousaf has distanced himself from Ms Sturgeon’s plan to use the next election as a de facto referendum, saying that he would instead seek to build a “consistent majority” in favour of independence and it “isn’t good enough to have polls that put support for independence at 50% or 51%”.

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