Scotland elects new First Minister after Sturgeon’s sudden departure

Scotland elects new First Minister after Sturgeon’s sudden departure

The Scottish National Party elected its new leader, Humza Yousaf, who became Scotland’s new First Minister after approval vote from the Scottish parliament on Monday. Yousaf succeeds Nicola Sturgeon who stepped down from the role after nine years at the helm of both party and government.

The new leader is 37 years old and was the health secretary of the latest Sturgeon’s cabinet. Prior to that he was justice secretary. Yousaf is the son of first-generation immigrants, from Pakistan and Kenya. He is a practising Muslim, making him the first to lead a country in Western Europe.

Yousaf promised to reignite the independence movement after years of stagnation and roadblocks by the British government. Allegedly, the difficult path towards a new independence referendum was among the main reasons that led Sturgeon to step down from her role. Yousaf told his supporters after being elected to the SNP leadership that “we will be the generation that delivers independence.”

His claims will need strong work from the SNP, as support for independence is currently down to 39%, according to a recent poll, down from a record 58% in 2020. Experts are also believing that the departure of Sturgeon will negatively impact support for independence in the short term, as the former First Minister was a recognizable and staunch supporter.

However, independence may not be the hardest challenge facing the new First Minister, as he inherits a divided party. Yousaf won 52% of the vote from SNP members at the second voting round. He beat Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes. In the first round Ash Regan was also running, but was eliminated.

The SNP is having several intestine divisions, as its members have different opinions on several issues. Yousaf stressed his intentions to continue with Sturgeon’s policies. This include transgender rights laws that sparkled controversy with London and within the party. Runner-up Regan for instance quit her role of minister for community safety in disagreement with the party line on the topic, while Forbes opposed same-sex marriages.

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