Humza Yousaf, the son of Pakistani immigrants, has been confirmed as the first minister of Scotland on Tuesday, making history as the first Muslim leader of a Western democracy. He succeeds Nicola Sturgeon, who stepped down after 10 years in office.
Yousaf, 37, was elected as the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) on Monday, beating his rival Angus Robertson by a narrow margin of 51.5% to 48.5%. He pledged to continue the SNP’s campaign for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, which was rejected by voters in a 2014 referendum.
Yousaf said he was “forever thankful” to his grandparents who migrated from Punjab to Scotland over 60 years ago and worked hard to contribute to their new country. He said his election was a testament to Scotland’s diversity and tolerance.
“I am proud to be Scottish and I am proud to be Muslim,” he said. “I hope that my election sends a message to every young person in Scotland, no matter their background or faith, that anything is possible in our country.”
Yousaf’s rise to power reflects the increasing diversity of British politics, which has seen several leaders from ethnic minority backgrounds take prominent roles in recent years. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is the first Hindu leader of Britain, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan is the first Muslim mayor of a major Western capital.
Yousaf will face several challenges as Scotland’s new leader, including managing the COVID-19 pandemic, reviving the economy, and dealing with the UK government’s opposition to another independence referendum. He will also have to work with other parties in the Scottish parliament, where the SNP does not have a majority.
Yousaf said he was ready to lead Scotland with “humility and determination” and to work with “anyone who shares our vision of a fairer and more prosperous Scotland”. He also said he would seek to build a constructive relationship with Sunak and other UK leaders.
“I have no doubt that we will have our differences and disagreements, but I hope that we can also find common ground and work together for the benefit of our people,” he said. “Scotland deserves nothing less.”