LONDON: Scotland’s Health Minister Humza Yousaf has emerged as a front-runner in the contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the Scottish National Party and the country’s first minister.
Sturgeon, 52, shocked many in British politics last week when she announced she was resigning. She said she had become too divisive a figure and, after more than eight years of leading the SNP and the Scottish Parliament, was too tired to carry on.
Yousaf, the most prominent Muslim politician in Scotland, was the first candidate to announce his intention to stand in the leadership contest. He shares similar views with Sturgeon on many policies, and his chances of becoming leader received a boost on Monday morning when Angus Robertson, 53, the culture secretary, announced he would not be running.
John Swinney, 58, the deputy first minister and a former leader of the SNP in the early 2000s, ruled himself out on Thursday, saying his decision not to challenge for the leadership was intended to create space for a “fresh perspective” on the aims of the governing party, including its policy on pursuing Scotland’s independence from the UK.
As a result of those two announcements, the leadership contest is shaping up to be a two-candidate race between 37-year-old Yousaf and Kate Forbes, 32, the party’s more socially conservative finance secretary, who confirmed in a message posted on Twitter that she wants to succeed Sturgeon.
Yousaf launched his campaign on Monday in Clydebank, a town about eight miles west of Glasgow that was once renowned for its shipbuilding history, because his grandfather, Mohammed Yousaf, got his first job after emigrating to Scotland in 1962 at the massive Singer sewing machine factory that was once a major employer for the town.
He praised Scotland’s inclusive, diverse ethos, saying his candidacy was clear proof of this. He added that his grandfather “couldn’t have imagined, not in his wildest dreams, that his grandson would be running to be first minister of Scotland.”
The SNP has said it will choose its new leader within six weeks through a ballot of its members, the closing date for which is March 27.