• Monday, May 20, 2024
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Humza Yousaf: 7 things to know about Scotland’s youngest leader ever

Humza Yousaf: 7 things to know about Scotland’s youngest leader ever

Humza Yousaf of the ruling Scottish National Party has been elected as the first Muslim and person of colour to serve as Scotland’s First Minister since the position was established in 1999. The 37 years old will join the likes of Rishi Sunak, UK Prime Minister and Leo Varadkar, Irish Prime Minister to become the third Asian heritage head of government in the British Isles. It is the making of a streak in history for Scotland as Nicola Sturgeon, who is handing over to Yousaf is the first female and longest serving First Minister of the country.

Yousaf’s victory was confirmed at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield rugby ground on Monday afternoon after a six-week campaign where three candidates spent much of the contest criticising each other’s record in a series of personal attacks, Reuters reports. Yousaf was also the first South Asian and first Muslim cabinet secretary to serve in the Scottish Government having served as the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care since 2021, and as the Cabinet Secretary for Justice from 2018 to 2021.

Here are seven things to know about Humza Yousaf

Multi-ethnicity

Yousaf was born in Glasgow by his Pakistani father Muzaffar Yousaf and his mother who was born in Kenya to South Asian descent. Her family was reported to have experienced violent attacks on several occasions for being seen as substituting jobs from natives and they later emigrated to Scotland

9/11 attacks

Yousaf was privately educated at Hutchesons’ Grammar School, an independent school in Glasgow, where his Modern Studies lessons inspired him to become involved in politics. He was 16 years old when the 9/11 attacks in America occurred. According to reports, he described the event as the day that changed the world for him. Yousaf was close to two pupils whom he sat next to in his registration class, but after the attack in New York, they asked Yousaf questions like, “Why do Muslims hate America?”

Youngest Member of Scottish Parliament ever

Yousaf studied politics at the University of Glasgow, before working as a parliamentary assistant for Bashir Ahmad, the first Muslim elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2007.

In May 2011, Yousaf was elected to the Scottish Parliament as an additional member for the Glasgow region at the age of 26 years making him the youngest MSP to be elected to the Scottish Parliament. When being sworn in, he took his oath in English then Urdu, reflecting his Scottish-Pakistani identity.

Prior to his election to parliament in 2011, he worked in the Scottish National Party (SNP) headquarters as a communications officer. Appointed as a junior minister under Salmond in 2012, Yousaf served as the minister for external affairs and international development until 2014. He was later appointed Europe minister before being appointed minister for transport and the islands in 2016.

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The Hate Crime Bill

As part of cabinet reshuffle of Nicola Sturgeon’s second government in 2018, she promoted Yousaf to cabinet as the justice secretary. Yousaf introduced the controversial hate crime bill and presided over falling crime rates. Being one of his flagship policies, the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill was meant to streamline existing legislation as well as add additional protections to persecuted minorities while maintaining rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

The bill has been criticised by the Catholic Church, the National Secular Society as well as writers, and in September 2020 it was amended to remove prosecution for cases of unintentionally stirring up hate, which could theoretically include libraries stocking contentious books.

The (not exactly) Covid cases

In the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, Yousaf was re-elected as the MSP for the Glasgow Pollok constituency. Nicola Sturgeon announced her intention to form a third administration and appointed Yousaf as the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, succeeding Jeane Freeman, who stepped down at the election.

In June 2021 Yousaf said that ten children up to the age of nine had been admitted to Scottish hospitals in the previous week “because of Covid”. The news was debunked by Steve Turner, Scotland officer for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, contradicted him and said that children’s wards were “not seeing a rise in cases with Covid”. He added that the children in question had been hospitalised for other reasons. Yousaf clarified his statement and apologised for “any undue alarm”

Equality for all

In 2020, Yousaf expressed support for increasing the racial diversity among top government positions in Scotland. He stated “for 99 percent of the meetings I go to, I’m the only non-White person in the room.Every chair of every public body is White. That is not good enough.”

Yousaf said in 2023 that he was firmly committed to equality for everyone and has vocally supported same-sex marriage and gender reforms for trans people. He also voted in favour of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. Yousaf is a strong advocate of LGBT rights. On the topic of marriage equality and homosexual sex he said “I believe that people’s marriage, if they are gay, and they are married, that their marriage is no more inferior, or worth less, than my marriage as a heterosexual individual. So no, I don’t subscribe to that view (that gay sex is a sin).”

Fined in 2016

In November 2016, Yousaf was fined £300 and had six penalty points added to his driving licence, after being caught by police driving a friend’s car without being insured to drive it. Yousaf accepted full responsibility, saying, “I totally accept the decision. I paid the fine and told my insurers about the points. This was an honest mistake, and the result of my personal circumstances during my separation.”