Humza Yousaf becomes first British Pakistani to lead Scotland as first minister

 37 years old Humza won 52% votes of SNP members and elected its new leader

Scottish National party (SNP) elected British Pakistani Humza Yousaf as the new leader on Monday. The 37-year-old practicing Muslim will succeed Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the governing Scottish National Party (SNP) and, subject to a vote in the Scottish parliament, take over as head of the semi-autonomous government on Wednesday, March 29.

Yousaf won 24,336 of the votes of the SNP's members in the first round, while his main rival Kate Forbes 32, Scotland's finance minister, came second with 20,559 votes. Ash Regan, who quit the government because of her opposition to proposed changes to gender recognition, was third with 5,599 votes.

He won the leadership race after a bitterly fought contest that exposed deep divisions in his party over policy and a stalled independence campaign. Setting out his goals, Yousaf said he would concentrate on tackling the cost of living crisis and make a renewed push for independence.

"The people of Scotland need independence now more than ever before, and we will be the generation that delivers it," he said in Edinburgh after the result.

Yousaf's victory was confirmed at the capital's Murrayfield rugby ground after a six-week campaign where the three candidates spent much of the contest criticizing each other's record in a series of personal attacks.

The SNP's unity, which had been one of its strengths, broke down over arguments about how to achieve a second independence referendum and the best way to introduce social reforms such as transgender rights.

But while about four in 10 Scots still support independence, according to a poll this month, the departure of Sturgeon - a charismatic and commanding leader - may slow some of the momentum behind a breakup of the United Kingdom.

Yousaf has spoken of the need to focus on building the case for independence and achieving consistent support for the movement, adding that he was open minded on which process to pursue once that level of support was achieved.

Yousaf pointed to his own background - born in Glasgow, with a father from Pakistan and mother from Kenya - and views as examples of the inclusive, socially liberal and multi-ethnic Scotland that the SNP has promoted.

Born in Glasgow, the 37-year-old has a degree in politics from the University of Glasgow. After graduating he worked as an aide to a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) before being elected an MSP himself in 2011.

His father is originally from Pakistan and came to Scotland in the 1960s from a small city of Mian Channu in Khanewal district, while his mother was born in Kenya to a family of South Asian descent. He has a child with his second wife and also a step-daughter.

Yousaf was first appointed a junior minister in 2012, at the time the youngest person and first ethnic minority to be appointed to the Scottish government. He joined the cabinet in 2018 as Secretary for Justice and became health minister in May 2021.

                                                              Khalid Bhatti 

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