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Politics / Yousaf set to become first minister after being elected Sturgeon’s successor in SNP

Humza Yousaf pictured in Lerwick in August 2022. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

HUMZA Yousaf has been announced as the new leader of the SNP – and is set to become Nicola Sturgeon’s successor as first minister.

He fought off competition from Kate Forbes and Ash Regan in the contest, which was voted on by SNP members.

The result was announced this afternoon (Monday), with Yousaf receiving 52.1 per cent of the votes. The new first minister will be chosen on Tuesday, when a vote takes place in the Scottish Parliament.

Shetland South councillor Robbie McGregor, who represents the SNP, said he was “absolutely delighted” by the news after backing Yousaf in the campaign.

“I’m sure he will do a good job and unite all the various Yes voting factions and lead us to independence,” he said.

“I’ve known him personally for a long, long time. I’ve got great admiration for him and I’m sure he will do a fantastic job.

“He’s a terrific communicator, and also he’s indicated that he’s prepared to look at the tunnel issue [in Shetland], which is a big thing in my book.”

McGregor also said “the fact that he’s a person of colour and belongs to a religious minority is a great thing as far as I’m concerned”.

The leadership contest was launched after Sturgeon announced in February that she would be standing down as SNP leader, and first minister.

Yousaf spoke to Shetland News just last week about some of the issues affecting the isles.

The MSP – a former transport and islands minister, and current health secretary – said he would be happy to see talks on fixed links within Shetland.

He was also somewhat on the fence regarding the Scottish Government’s controversial proposal to introduce highly protected marine areas in certain seas around the country, which could prohibit fishing.

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During his acceptance speech this afternoon, the new SNP leader said: “If elected as first minister tomorrow in parliament know that I will be first minister for all of Scotland. I will work every minute of every day to earn and to re-earn your respect and your trust.

“There will be no empty promises or easy soundbites when the issues in front of us are difficult and complex because government is not easy and I won’t pretend that it is.

“My immediate priority will be to continue to protect every Scot as far as we possibly 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 improve the life chances of  people right across this country, and move quickly to develop plans to extent child care, to improve rural housing, support small businesses and boost innovation.

“My government will seize the economic and social opportunity that the journey to net zero will bring; a country as energy rich as Scotland should not have people living in fuel poverty.”

Responding to the news, Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said: “First of all we have to acknowledge a new milestone with the first ethnic minority leader of the SNP – something that everyone can welcome.

“Island communities will rightly see this as a chance for some change from Holyrood. We need positive action on contentious issues like fair ferry funding, the future of farm and croft support and a rethink on the implementation of Highly Protected Marine Areas for fishing, and the Deposit Return Scheme.

“Now is the time, too, for proper engagement from the Scottish Government on the fixed links campaign for Shetland.

“Humza Yousaf’s in-tray will be stacked with challenges, and we all have to hope he may now rise to the occasion, even in his eleventh year in government.

“It was clearly a bitter and bruising campaign and the result shows that the SNP is split right down the middle. All the efforts of the party establishment to corral members could only deliver Humza Yousaf the narrowest victory, with 30 per cent refusing to even vote. That leaves him a weakened figure before he even starts.

“Kate Forbes spent the campaign trashing the SNP’s record in government and Yousaf’s role as a minister – and it turns out that half the party agreed with her. In the choice between the extreme and the incompetent, even loyal SNP members were holding their nose.

“Right now we need leadership that can put the basics of government first, not more infighting and game-playing. The early signs do not look good.”

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