Humza Yousaf, a Pakistan-origin practicing Muslim, got selected as the next leader of Scotland on Monday, after a fiercely contested election within the governing Scottish National Party (SNP).
During his victory speech in Edinburgh, Yousaf outlined his goals, including tackling the cost of living crisis, ending divisions within the party, and making a renewed push for Scottish independence.
“The people of Scotland need independence now, more than ever before and we will be the generation that delivers independence,” he said.
Yousaf, aged 37, will succeed Nicola Sturgeon when he takes over as the head of the semi-autonomous government once he wins approval in the Scottish Parliament.
“He will be an outstanding leader & First Minister and I could not be prouder to have him succeed me,” said Ms. Sturgeon in a Twitter post congratulating Yousaf and paying tribute to all 3 candidates for the SNP leadership.
Opposition party leaders, however, were far less complimentary about the election of Mr. Yousaf.
Pakistani-born Muslim was declared the winner at Scotland’s national rugby ground following a six-week campaign characterized by the three candidates engaging in a series of personal attacks and criticizing each other’s records.
The SNP, which long aimed to end Scotland’s three-century union with England, has been deeply divided over policy and strategy, particularly around achieving a second independence referendum and introducing social reforms such as transgender rights.
While polls showed that around four in 10 Scots support independence, the departure of the charismatic and commanding Sturgeon may initially slow the momentum behind a break-up of the United Kingdom. However, Yousaf vowed to continue the fight for independence, calling it a necessary step for Scotland’s future.
Yousaf’s election as Scotland’s first Muslim and person-of-a-color leader is also significant. It sends a positive message of inclusivity and diversity, especially in a country that has seen a rise in hate crimes and Islamophobia in recent years.