Humza Yousaf declared himself “a proud Scot and equally a proud European” today as he was elected leader of the SNP and the country’s new first minister.
The 37-year-old immediately pledged to take an independent Scotland back into the EU after defeating Kate Forbesby 52.1% to 47.9% in the second count of members’ votes. Ash Regan was eliminated in the first count with 11.1%.
In his victory speech the outgoing health secretary said: “I am a proud Scot, and equally a proud European too, and Scotland is a European nation.
“We want to return to the European Union and play our part in building a continent based on human rights, peace, prosperity and social justice.”
Yousaf will be sworn in as first minister following a vote in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow. He was widely seen as being the preferred candidate of the SNP establishment – including outgoing first minister Nicola Sturgeon herself.
He told supporters and the media gathered for the result at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium: “To serve my country as first minister will be the greatest privilege and honour of my life, should Parliament decide to elect me as Scotland’s next first minister tomorrow.
“And just as I will lead the SNP in the interests of all party members, not just those who voted for me, so I will lead Scotland in the interests of all our citizens whatever your political allegiance.
“If elected as your first minister after tomorrow’s vote in Parliament, know that I will be a firstmMinister for all of Scotland, that I will work every minute of every day to earn and re-earn your respect and your trust.
“I will do that by treating you, the people of Scotland, with respect.”
He said his immediate priority would be “to continue to protect every Scot as far as we can from the harm inflicted by the cost of living crisis, to recover and reform our NHS and other vital public services, to support our wellbeing economy and to improve the life chances of people across our country”.
Yousaf was widely seen as the “continuity candidate” in the election and had the bulk of public endorsements from MPs and MSPs, but the tightness of the result shows the divide among members on the central issue of how soon and hard to push for a second referendum on independence.
He is also the preferred candidate of the SNP’s coalition partner, the Greens, who had dropped heavy hints about pulling out of the arrangement had Forbes, a social conservative, won the race.
He was the most experienced of the three leadership contenders, having served in government since 2012 in roles including justice secretary and transport minister.
He said today: “To those in Scotland who don’t yet share the passion I do for independence, I will aim to earn your trust by continuing to govern well, and earn your respect as first minister by focussing on the priorities that matter to us all, and in doing so using our devolved powers to absolute maximum effect to tackle the challenges of the day.
“For those of us who do believe in independence, we will only win by making the case on the doorsteps.
“My solemn commitment to you is that I will kickstart our grassroots, civic-led movement and ensure our drive for independence is in fifth gear.
“The people of Scotland need independence now more than ever before, and we will be the generation that delivers it.”
Alyn Smith, the SNP’s spokesperson on Europe at Westminster, focused on Yousaf’s commitment to Europe in his tweet:
Others too welcomed his commitment during his campaign to take an independent Scotland back into the EU:
Many commentators noted his achievement as the first Muslim politician elected to be a national leader in a western democracy:
The SNP’s governing partners congratulated him on his victory:
And here’s the speech.