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New SNP leader Humza Yousaf congratulated but warned of challenges ahead

Mr Yousaf defeated fellow leadership candidates Kate Forbes and Ash Regan.

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Humza Yousaf

Scotland’s outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Humza Yousaf will be an “outstanding” successor as she congratulated him on his appointment as SNP leader.

Mr Yousaf defeated the current Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and former community safety minister Ash Regan in what was the SNP’s first leadership contest for almost 20 years.

Opposition politicians hailed his appointment as the first SNP leader from an ethnic minority background as a “significant moment” but said he will face challenges leading a “chaotic and divided” party.

The Scottish Conservatives said they have “serious concerns about his ability” while Scottish Labour said an election is needed now.

Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “I pay tribute to all 3 candidates for @theSNP leadership for rising to the challenge.

“Most of all I congratulate @HumzaYousaf and wish him every success. He will be an outstanding leader & First Minister and I could not be prouder to have him succeed me.”

Mr Yousaf is expected to be declared Scotland’s sixth first minister after a vote in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

Ms Forbes also congratulated him, saying: “I’ve been proud to share a platform with both him and Ash over the last five weeks, and I know we will continue to work together, to make the lives of all of Scotland’s people better on the next stage of our journey to independence.

“Whatever the robust disagreements or frank exchanges of the last few weeks, I am confident we will unite behind Humza as our new party leader in the shared and common objective of independence.”

Ms Sturgeon’s predecessor, Alex Salmond, said: “Humza has been elected on a minority of the vote to leadership of one part of the national movement. He has a big job on to reunite his party and the cause.”

The Alba leader congratulated Mr Yousaf, adding: “I thought both Ash Regan and Kate Forbes fought brave campaigns against the full force of the SNP establishment, and given that together they received over half the votes, the new leader would do well to listen to what they had to say in the campaign.”

The Scottish Greens, who agreed the Bute House powersharing deal with the SNP, had signalled that they would not work with Ms Forbes if she were elected as the country’s next first minister.

SNP leadership election result
(PA Graphics)

The party said it was encouraged that Mr Yousaf’s election could be viewed as an endorsement of “shared values”.

A Scottish Greens spokesperson said: “The Scottish Greens congratulate Humza Yousaf on his leadership victory, and hope he will build on the legacy of his predecessors in delivering a progressive, climate driven and fair legislative agenda for all of Scotland.

“As partners in the Bute House Agreement, we are encouraged his election will be viewed as an endorsement of these shared values, as Scotland looks to embrace a fairer, greener and more equal future.

“In line with our constitution, and following a capacity spring conference at the weekend in which we discussed the partnership arrangement, we will consult with our party members through council which will meet later today to agree our next steps.

“We will share those conclusions in due course.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar called for an election, saying: “While I question his mandate and the SNP’s record, it is important to reflect on the election of what will be the first first minister from an ethnic minority background. Regardless of your politics, this is a significant moment for Scotland.

“But while Scotland faces the twin crises of the cost of living and the NHS emergency, it is clear that the SNP does not have the answers that Scotland needs.

“This chaotic and divided party is out of touch and out of ideas.

Anas Sarwar
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the SNP is out of touch (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Humza Yousaf has inherited the SNP’s woeful record, but he has not inherited Nicola Sturgeon’s mandate.

“We need an election now, and Scottish Labour is the change that Scotland needs.”

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross said Mr Yousaf’s election as leader shows that the SNP are moving further and further away from the real priorities of the Scottish people to “obsess over independence”.

He said: “I congratulate Humza Yousaf on his election, and on becoming the first leader of his party from an ethnic minority.

“We encourage him to govern for all of Scotland and abandon his divisive plans to push independence relentlessly as the self-styled ‘First Activist’.

“As the main opposition party, we will hold Humza Yousaf to account when he lets the Scottish people down.

Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf takes over from Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

“Unfortunately, we have serious concerns about his ability. For the good of Scotland, we hope he does not lurch from failure to failure as he did when he was Nicola Sturgeon’s health secretary, justice secretary and transport minister.

Meanwhile Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said he will be putting himself forward in the vote for first minister.

He said: “I would like to congratulate Humza Yousaf on becoming the first minority ethnic leader of his party.

“Scotland is crying out for a first minister who will put the people’s priorities first and be a leader for the whole country.

“There are huge challenges facing our country but sadly Humza Yousaf has not proven equal to those challenges in his previous roles.”

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