Humza Yousaf: Scotland’s First Minister

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Humza Yousaf is the first Muslim head of government of a Western European nation. He is also the youngest to occupy the seat of first minister of Scotland and the first to be elected from a minority ethnic group. Yousaf’s father was born in Pakistan and his mother was born in Kenya to a family of Punjabi descent. The 37-year-old was sworn in on Wednesday, March 29. His policies are characterized by his liberal views on immigration, leniency towards same-sex marriage and pro-Scottish independence stance.

The election of Humza Yousaf 

The Scottish National Party has not seen a contested election since 2004, when Alex Sandoval was succeeded by Nicola Sturgeon. Sturgeon had been the only candidate running and was automatically elected. In Yousaf’s case, there were three candidates running. According to the Institute for Government, “he received 48% of first preference votes, with Forbes receiving 41%, [and Regan receiving 11%].” He was subsequently elected on second preference votes, where he received 52% to Forbes’ 48%.” Now, as the new first minister, he has many goals he wishes to accomplish. In a press conference, he stated, “as the parliamentary voice for me today, I pledge, I will continue to ensure that Scotland is a positive, progressive voice on the world stage.” 

Yousaf’s first act in government

Staying true to his beliefs and his politics, Humza Yousaf’s first act in office was to send a letter to the United Kingdom’s prime minister, Rishi Shunak, demanding a second Scottish referendum. The proposal comes almost 10 years after the first referendum in 2014, in which it was concluded that the majority of Scotland did not wish to be independent. 

Furthermore, during Nicola Sturgeon’s (the predecessor of Yousaf) time in office, it had been ruled that her government could not hold a new referendum on Scottish independence without London’s approval. Her time in office lasted from the first referendum up until her resignation on February 15, 2023. During this time, Humza Yousaf was the health minister in Sturgeon’s cabinet. 

Since Humza Yousaf has won the election, a new chance for the Scots to hold another referendum has emerged. However, the state seems to be divided over the matter. According to Macau News Agency, “recent surveys show around 45% of Scots back Scotland leaving the United Kingdom.” Others, like the UK government’s Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack, hope that the issue can finally be put to bed with the change in the head of state. 

Officials, minority groups, and seats in government 

It is important to mention that recently there has been a rise in influential people from minorities occupying governmental seats in the United Kingdom. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, a practicing Muslim, has been in power since 2016. Previously, he had been a member of parliament for 11 years.

Another example of a Muslim with a seat in government is Baroness Sayeeda Warsi. She is currently a member of the House of Lords (the upper chamber of parliament of the UK) and the first Muslim person to serve in the British parliament. Moreover, Baroness Warsi has consistently been voted one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the world.

Lastly, Rishi Shunak, the United Kingdom’s current prime minister is Britain’s first leader of color and the first of Hindu origin. This new generation of leaders that have recently risen in the UK are here to make a significant change and as Yousaf himself said “[he] will work every hour of every day to harness the potential of Scotland and every single person.” 

Featured image by: Wikimedia Commons

Gabriela Gorodi
Gabriela Gorodi
Hey! I´m Gaby, I am a second-year law and international relations student with a passion for writing. My interests go from writing about international conflict to issues closer to our daily life that may be of interest. I was born in Spain however I grew up abroad and love learning about different cultures, traditions, and countries. Everyone has a story to share and I think that's pretty unique.

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