AFPHumza Yousaf during a debate early this month
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 16:09
Humza Yousaf has been elected the new leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and thus the new Prime Minister of Scotland. He defeated current Secretary of the Treasury Kate Forbes and former Secretary of State Ash Regan.
Yousaf is of Pakistani descent and is the first Scottish Prime Minister of color.
Yousaf succeeds Nicola Sturgeon, who unexpectedly announced her departure last month. Sturgeon was Scotland’s first female prime minister and headed the Scottish government for eight years. As Prime Minister, she was the driving force behind the Scottish independence movement.
With the choice of 37-year-old Yousaf, the members of the SNP have indicated which course the party should take. Sturgeon’s left-progressive policies led to considerable friction within the SNP. In particular, a controversial transgender law that would make it easier for people to change gender met with a lot of resistance. Ultimately, that law was blocked by London.
With Yousaf, the members of the SNP are sticking to the course set by Sturgeon. He shares the outgoing Prime Minister’s progressive vision. For example, he already announced during his campaign that he still wants to try to implement the transgender law.
Yousaf also shares the wish for an independent Scotland. Shortly after his election, he said that “the Scots need independence now more than ever before” and that “this is the generation that will bring independence”. In his election campaign, Yousaf emphasized that he first wants to work on a ‘stable and supported’ majority for independence. It’s not there yet.
Sturgeon’s departure and the nomination of her successor comes a year before the next election. The SNP has been in power since 2007 and the party has become less popular in recent years. This is partly due to dissatisfaction with the Scottish education system and long waiting lists in healthcare. With Yousaf as the new leader, the SNP hopes to stay in power.
During her reign, Sturgeon campaigned for Scottish independence and managed to transfer a number of government powers to the Scottish government. Especially in the stormy years after Brexit, the Scottish call for independence grew.
That didn’t always go without a hitch. Sturgeon came into conflict with the British government several times, including over organizing an independence referendum. The government in London refused to allow such a referendum.