Posted on March 28, 2023

Scotland to Get 1st Muslim Leader as SNP Elects Humza Yousaf

Jill Lawless, Associated Press, March 27, 2023

Scotland’s governing party elected Humza Yousaf as its new leader on Monday, making him the first person of color and the first Muslim to lead the country of 5.5 million people.

Yousaf narrowly defeated rival Kate Forbes after a bruising five-week contest that exposed deep fractures within the pro-independence Scottish National Party as it faces an impasse in its quest to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom.

The 37-year-old Glasgow-born son of South Asian immigrants is set to be confirmed as first minister during a session of the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

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 after eight years as leader of the party and of Scotland’s semi-autonomous government.

SNP members chose Yousaf over Scottish finance minister Forbes by a margin of 52% to 48%, after third-placed candidate Ash Regan was eliminated in a first vote. Turnout among the 72,000 members was 70%.


Yousaf paid tribute to his late grandparents, who emigrated from the Punjab to Glasgow more than 60 years ago.

“They couldn’t have imagined, in their wildest dreams, that two generations later their grandson would one day be Scotland’s first minister,” he said. “We should all take pride in the fact that today we have sent a clear message: that your color of skin, your faith, is not a barrier to leading the country we all call home.”


The SNP holds 64 of the 129 seats in the Scottish parliament and governs in coalition with the much smaller Greens. The smaller party had warned it might quit the coalition if the SNP elected a leader that doesn’t share its progressive views — meaning a victory by Forbes or Regan could have splintered the government.

That split has been avoided, but the pro-independence campaign remains adrift. Scottish voters backed remaining in the U.K. in a 2014 referendum that was billed as a once-in-a-generation decision. The SNP wants a new vote, but the central government in London has refused to authorize one, and the U.K. Supreme Court has ruled that Scotland can’t hold one without London’s consent.

Yousaf said he would ask the Conservative government in London for authorization to hold a new referendum. {snip}

Yousaf has also said he wants to build a “settled, sustained” majority for independence. {snip}