Hamza Yusuf has won the Scottish National Party leadership contest and is set to become Scotland’s first minister, replacing Nicola Sturgeon, it was announced on Monday.
“I will be the first minister of all Scotland. “I will work every minute of every day to earn and re-earn your respect and trust,” Yusuf said in his acceptance speech.
Yusuf won with 52% of the final votes cast, running on a platform dedicated to achieving Scottish independence, fighting the cost of living crisis, joining the European Union, banning conversion practices and transitioning to renewable energy, among other campaign promises.
“My immediate priority will be to continue to protect every Scotsman as best we can from the damage caused by the cost of living crisis, to restore and repair the NHS and other vital public services, [and] To support our welfare economy to improve life chances for people across this country.”
Yusuf, who has served as a Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow Pollock since 2016 and for Glasgow between 2011 and 2016, is the first Muslim and non-white minister to serve in the Scottish government.
“Serving my country as prime minister will be the greatest privilege and honor of my life,” Youssef added.
Yusuf was confirmed as the winner at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield rugby ground on Monday afternoon after a six-week campaign in which the three favorites spent most of the competition slamming each other’s scoring in a series of personal attacks, Reuters reports.
Joseph leads a party with the main goal of ending Scotland’s three-centuries-long union with England.
But while around four in 10 Scots still support independence, according to a poll this month, the departure of Sturgeon – a charismatic and commanding leader – could slow some of the momentum behind the UK’s breakup.
There is no agreed strategy for how to force a new referendum – one of the reasons for Sturgeon’s resignation.
The often nasty leadership contest has eased some of the pressure on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is dealing with divisions within his own party, waves of industrial action and high levels of inflation.
Yusuf has pointed to his own background – born in Glasgow, to a father from Pakistan and a mother from Kenya – and is seen as examples of the inclusive, socially liberal and multiracial Scotland promoted by the SNP.
Yusuf also said during the campaign that an independent Scotland should consider getting rid of the British monarchy.
Scotland voted against independence by 55% to 45% in 2014. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union two years later when a majority of Scots wanted to stay, and Scotland’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, led to new support for independence.
However, a poll this month showed support for independence dropped to 39%, or 46% when “I don’t know” is excluded. That compares with a record 58% in 2020.
Michael Russell, the SNP chairman, said a week ago that the party was in “a colossal mess”.
The Scottish government’s first and only Muslim minister Yousef will be sworn in as Leader of Scotland on Wednesday if he wins a vote in Parliament the day before.
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