In his victory speech, Hamza said he was “determined to deliver” independence for Scotland. But his victory by a narrow margin could become s a significant hindrance to this aim.
At age 37, Yousaf, the grandson of a Pakistani immigrant who arrived barely speaking English to work in a sewing machine factory in Glasgow, Scotland, would be the youngest first minister of Scotland and the first Muslim to run the nation. His mother, wearing a headscarf, dabbed a tear as he spoke after the vote results were announced.
In a speech after the result of the SNP membership vote, Yousaf said that when his grandparents moved from Punjab (Pakistan) to Scotland more than 60 years ago “as immigrants to this country, who knew barely a word of English, they could not have imagined their grandson would one day be on the cusp of being the next First Minister of Scotland. We should all take pride in the fact that today we have sent a clear message, that your color of skin, your faith, is not a barrier to leading the country we all call home.” We couldn’t agree more.
Humza promised on March 28 to continue his party’s push to leave the United Kingdom and become a fully independent nation. “We will be the generation that delivers independence,” he vowed.
My family and I spending our first night in Bute House after today’s parliamentary vote. A special moment leading my family in prayer in Bute House as is customary after breaking fast together. pic.twitter.com/yjPY1vpJMB
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) March 28, 2023
After UK’s India-origin prime minister Rishi Sunak, Pakistan-origin Hamza will be the second immigrant to join the top leadership positions in the United Kingdom. He currently serves as health minister in the Scottish government. London’s mayor is Sadiq Khan, a Muslim and son of Pakistani immigrants. Today, Sunak, Khan and Yousaf are three of the most prominent — and powerful — leaders in Britain.
Who is Hamza Yousaf?
Humza Yousaf is Scotland’s respected prominent politician, serving as a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the Scottish National Party (SNP) since 2011. Yousaf has held a number of positions within the Scottish Government, including Minister for External Affairs and International Development, Minister for Europe and International Development, and Cabinet Secretary for Justice. He is also the first Muslim and person of color to hold such positions in Scotland.
Yousaf was born in Glasgow in 1985, to parents who emigrated from Pakistan. He grew up in Pollokshields, a diverse and multicultural area of Glasgow, and attended Hutchesons’ Grammar School, a private school in the city. He went on to study politics and sociology at the University of Glasgow, where he was involved in student politics and activism.
Yousaf’s political career began in 2004 when he joined the SNP, attracted by the party’s commitment to Scottish independence and social justice. He became active in the party’s youth wing, and in 2006 was elected as the National Convenor of the SNP’s youth organization, the Young Scots for Independence. In this role, he campaigned for greater political engagement among young people, and helped to mobilize support for the SNP’s successful campaign in the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections.
In 2011, Yousaf was elected as an MSP for the Glasgow region, and quickly rose through the ranks of the SNP. He was appointed as Minister for External Affairs and International Development in 2014, and in 2016 became Minister for Europe and International Development. In these roles, he was responsible for Scotland’s international relations, and played a key role in promoting Scotland’s interests in Europe and the wider world.
In 2018, Yousaf was appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Justice, becoming the first person of color to hold such a position in Scotland. As Cabinet Secretary, he was responsible for overseeing Scotland’s justice system, including policing, courts, and prisons. He has been a vocal advocate for progressive reforms in the justice system, including the abolition of prison sentences for low-level offenses, and greater emphasis on community-based alternatives to custody.
Outside of his political work, Yousaf is an active campaigner for social justice and equality. He has spoken out on issues such as Islamophobia, racism, and the refugee crisis, and has been involved in a number of community organizations, including the Glasgow Central Mosque and the Scottish Refugee Council.
Yousaf has also been open about his own experiences of racism and discrimination. In 2016, he revealed that he had been the target of racist abuse during his time as a student at the University of Glasgow, including being spat at and called a “Paki”. He has since become an outspoken critic of racism and xenophobia, and has called for greater efforts to combat hate crime and promote diversity and inclusion.
Yousaf’s political career has not been without controversy. In 2019, he was embroiled in a row over the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Yousaf was accused of misleading the Scottish Parliament over the issue, and faced calls for his resignation. However, he survived a vote of no confidence and remained in his position as Cabinet Secretary.
Overall, Humza Yousaf is a highly respected figure in Scottish politics, known for his commitment to social justice, equality, and progressive reform. As a person of color and a Muslim, he has faced his fair share of challenges and discrimination but has used his position to speak out against racism and promote inclusion and diversity. His rise to prominence in Scottish politics is a testament to the country’s growing multiculturalism and commitment to progressive values.