Humza Yousaf ‘determined’ to deliver independence following election as SNP leader

Humza Yousaf has been elected as the new SNP leader following a contentious five-week leadership race.

Outgoing first minister Nicola Sturgeon will now offer her resignation to the King on Tuesday, after which a parliamentary vote will take place in Holyrood to officially nominate Mr Yousaf as her replacement.

He will then be be sworn in at the Court of Session on Wednesday, after which his new cabinet will be announced.

Addressing those gathered in Edinburgh, where the result was announced, Mr Yousaf said it was “hard” to find the words to describe “just how honoured I am to be entrusted by our membership of the SNP to be the party’s next leader – and to be on the cusp of being our country’s next first minister”.

Setting out his priorities, Mr Yousaf said he is “determined” to deliver independence for Scotland.

He also paid tribute to his fellow leadership contenders, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan, affirming: “I know that collectively we will continue to work hard as part of team SNP”. 

Mr Yousaf received 26,032 votes, compared to Ms Forbes’ 23,890. Because none of the three candidates received more than 50% of first preference choices, the vote needed second preferences to be decided.

Once the second preference votes were redistributed Mr Yousaf had 26,032 which represents 52.1 per cent of the vote.

Mr Yousaf was also backed by a large proposition of the SNP’s elected officials, including 19 MPs and 34 MSPs according to’s count.

Announcing his support on 12 March, deputy first minister John Swinney outlined: “We now need to choose a party leader who will complete our journey to independence and I believe that person should be Humza Yousaf”.

He added: “I think Humza is best paced to lead our party because he will strengthen the SNP as a force for progressive change in Scottish politics. He will govern effectively by using the partnership that we enjoy with the Scottish Green Party”.

The 38-year-old health secretary led the country’s response to the Covid crisis, making him a household name in Scotland.

Despite making up part of a newer generation of SNP figures, having become an MSP in 2011, Yousaf has held a number of senior posts in government, including as transport minister, Europe minister and justice secretary.

His record on the NHS has came under fire during the campaign due to large waiting lists and long A&E waiting times.

The leadership race began after Nicola Sturgeon called a surprise press conference in February and announced that she was resigning as Scotland’s first minister after eight years in the job.

The move left the SNP facing its first leadership contest for almost 20 years.

Speaking at Bute House in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon told reporters: “In my head and in my heart I know that time is now, that it is right for me, for my party and for the country. And so today I am announcing my intention to step down as First Minister and leader of my party”.

Ms Sturgeon has also said that she will never say who she voted for in the SNP leadership election, declaring before the announcement of Mr Yousaf’s victory that whoever wins “will have my 100 per cent support.”

She said that the SNP must get behind its new leader, “because if they succeed, the party and – most importantly of all – the country will succeed”.

Ms Forbes, who came a close second, attracted controversy early on in the race after she said she would have voted against the landmark equalities bill “as a matter of conscience”.

As a result of her position on such social issues, the finance secretary lost a number of key backers. These include MSPs Gillian Martin, Richard Lochhead, Tom Arthur, Clare Haughey and MP Drew Hendry.

Ash Regan finished third in race, picking up 5,599 votes or 11 per cent of first preferences. 

Ms Regan’s most prominent backer was Joanna Cherry MP, the chair of the joint committee on human rights at Westminster. She was the SNP’s justice spokesperson before being sacked from the front bench for her outspoken opposition to gender recognition reforms.

Announcing her support, Ms Cherry said: “I’m proud to support Ash given her solid left wing credentials … and the courage and leadership she has shown in standing up for the rights of women and girls”.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak has vowed to “fight very hard” to stop Mr Yousaf from breaking up the United Kingdom.

Asked if he would be willing to discuss a second referendum with the new SNP leader, Mr Sunak told an event in Essex this morning: “The SNP will do their thing, we will find out today. I am very clear that I passionately believe in our union… I care about our union, I think it is very precious.

“When my grand parents emigrated to this country they didn’t come to England, they came to the United Kingdom and that is because the UK represented a really powerful set of values and ultimately it is those values that bind us all together. It is not geography.

“That idea that inspired my grand parents to emigrate here, the idea of what the United Kingdom stood for, what we were all about as a society, as a community, that is powerful, it is inspiring and I will fight very hard to protect it everyday that I am in this job.”

The latest poll of Scottish voters on independence, conducted by YouGov, has suggested that currently, 46 per cent of people would vote ‘yes’, while 54 per cent would vote ‘no’.