Scotland’s parliament is set to confirm Humza Yousaf as the new first minister on Tuesday, after he narrowly won the contest to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as Scottish National Party leader.
Yousaf beat two SNP rivals on Monday to clinch the party’s top job, vowing to rejuvenate its signature policy of pursuing independence for Scotland which has stalled in recent months.
“We should all take pride in the fact that today we have sent a clear message that your colour of skin, or your faith, is not a barrier to leading the country we all call home,” Yousaf said in his victory speech.
Promising to be a leader “for all of Scotland”, he pledged to “kickstart” a civic movement that would “ensure our drive for independence is in fifth gear”.
“We will be the generation that delivers independence for Scotland.”
– ‘Focused’ –
Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) will vote to confirm a new first minister later on Tuesday, with Yousaf ensured of succeeding Sturgeon given the SNP is the largest party in the devolved assembly.
The seismic shift in Scottish politics follows Sturgeon’s surprise resignation announcement last month after more than eight years at the helm.
The 52-year-old said she was quitting because she felt unable to give “every ounce of energy” to the job.
But it followed a difficult period for her government, during which support for independence has slipped.
Recent surveys show around 45 percent of Scots support Scotland leaving the United Kingdom — the same tally recorded in a 2014 referendum which London insists settled the matter for a generation.
The Conservative government in London was quick to rebuff Yousaf’s demands for a fresh plebiscite.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman told reporters that the new SNP leader should focus on economic and policy issues “that matter” to Scottish voters.
“That’s what the (UK) government will be focused on,” he added.