Humza Yousaf’s hopes for a ‘reborn nation’ in Scotland

Humza Yousaf claims nursery discriminated against daughter

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Following the First Minister’s surprise resignation last week, Humza Yousaf is likely to become the first leader of Scotland from an ethnic-minority background, having promised to “re-energise the independence campaign in the best interests of our nation”. The 37-year-old is now at the forefront of the SNP leadership bid according to the bookies, ahead of backbench MSP Ash Regan and Kate Forbes, who this week appears to have fallen out of favour after admitting she would oppose gay marriage. Here, takes a look at who has been described as Nicola Sturgeon’s continuity candidate.

On Monday, Mr Yousaf announced he would be running in Scotland and the SNP’s leadership election following Ms Sturgeon’s shock resignation on February 15. His candidacy was confirmed nine days later.

A long history with the SNP, in 2019, while serving as the Minister of Justice, Mr Yousaf took to the stage in Glasgow during an Indyref2020 rally.

Looking at the crowd at George Square, he said: “I see people of all colours: I see the black standing next to the white, standing next to the brown. I see men and women. I see people of many nationalities.

“I see the gay and the straight. I see the religious and the agnostic — and that is what our movement is about. It’s an inclusive movement — whoever you are, wherever you’re from, this is your country…

“Whether you’re ten-generation Scottish or a Syrian refugee, this is the independence we are fighting for. An independent Scotland will be a reborn nation.”

That day, the SNP leader urged voters to “seize independence” to escape the chaos of Brexit and to take Scotland’s future into their own hands.

The referendum called for in the SNP’s 2019 general election referendum did not go ahead but has remained at the centre of the debate ever since.

Mr Yousaf has said he is still aiming to achieve a second referendum, after 55 percent of Scotland voted “no” to the question “should Scotland be an independent country?” posed in 2014.

Yet, he told ITV’s Representing Border this week that there is no “sustained majority” for independence, saying that the SNP should make a positive case for leaving rather than rushing quickly to achieve it.

He added: “Anybody that comes to this campaign and has a ruse cooked up in the oven that suggests we can get independence tomorrow, I’m afraid, is not being honest with the party membership.”

Having held several posts, Mr Yousaf was formerly Scotland’s Transport Minister as well as development minister and was the first Muslim to be appointed to the Scottish Government in 2012.

He endured a baptism of fire when he became Scottish Health Secretary in 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic.

He was criticised for both the long wait times and for urging Scots to “think twice” before dialling 999 for an ambulance as the NHS faced an “extraordinarily difficult winter”.


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His foray into politics first began when he worked as an office manager for entrepreneur and SNP politician Bashir Ahmad, the first MSP from an Asian and Muslim background.

Following Mr Ahmad’s death from a heart attack at the age of 68 in 2009, he moved on to work for former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond as well as Ms Sturgeon.

Although he is an ally of the 52-year-old First Minister, he has voiced his doubts at the general election next year being used essentially as a second referendum.

However, he has not indicated when one might be held, saying: “I’m not going to put a timetable on it. I want independence tomorrow if we can have it, and that goes almost without saying.”

Born to a Pakistani father and Kenyan mother who moved to the UK in the Sixties, Mr Yousaf said on Monday that Scotland should be proud that the “grandson of an immigrant can seek to become the next first minister”. His grandfather, who moved to Scotland from Pakistan in 1962, could barely speak any English when he arrived.

Privately educated at Glasgow’s Hutchesons’ Grammar School, Mr Yousaf did a great deal of charity work when he was young. He then studied politics at the University of Glasgow before venturing into politics in 2011, first elected when he was just 26 years old.

In 2016, he split with his first wife, SNP worker Gail Lythgoe. Three years later, he married Nadia El-Nakla, a Scottish nationalist councillor, with whom he has one child.

In 2021, the couple made a complaint against Little Scholars Day Nursery in Dundee after they were allegedly told that there were no spaces for their then two-year-old daughter Amal but a white friend was told days later that there were.

According to the Daily Record, the couple is pursuing legal action which the nursery has described as a “vicious and cynical campaign”.

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