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Humza Yousaf wins: Who is the new SNP leader?

Humza Yousaf wins: Who is the new SNP leader?

Humza Yousaf has been named the new leader of the SNP and will tomorrow ask MSPs to back him as first minister of Scotland. So who is he?

The 37-year-old MSP and so-called 'continuity candidate' defeated rivals Kate Forbes and Ash Regan to succeed Nicola Sturgeon at the head of the country's largest - and most powerful - political party.

That follows a fractious campaign in which Forbes accused him of "mediocrity" and questioned his record in government, asking during a live TV debate: "You were transport minister and the trains were never on time, when you were justice secretary the police were stretched to breaking point, and now as health minister we've got record high waiting times - what makes you think you can do a better job as first minister?"

"If anybody goes low, I'll keep going high," Yousaf said afterwards. "I've got a positive vision of how we can create and continue to create a socially-just Scotland."

The man behind the headlines

A fan of Anglo-American football series Ted Lasso, Yousaf's Instagram profile describes him as hailing "from the bhangra and bagpipes tradition". 

Born and raised in Glasgow, where he now serves the Glasgow Pollok constituency, Yousaf attended the city's private Hutcheson's Grammar School - as did fellow Glasgow MSP and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, though the pair were not in the same year.

The young Yousaf left school for the University of Glasgow, where he studied politics and worked in a call centre, becoming president of the Muslim Students Association before graduating in 2007.

Four years later, he entered the Scottish Parliament for the first time as a list MSP, following a string of jobs with the SNP. These saw him work for Bashir Ahmad, Scotland's first Muslim MSP, who Yousaf counts as an important influence on his life, as well as Anne McLaughlin, Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond. His last role prior to his election was as a communications officer in SNP headquarters, where Sturgeon's husband Peter Murrell was chief executive.

Entering the parliament for the first time, Yousaf took the oath in both English and Urdu, combining his cultures in a sherwani and Partick Thistle tartan.

Away from politics

For a frontline politician, there is no 'away from politics' - and indeed, Yousaf lives with a politician. His wife Nadia El-Nakla was elected to Dundee City Council last year, and the pair share their young daughter Amal, and Maya, El-Nakla's older daughter from a previous relationship.

The family lives in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, and is close to local MSP Shona Robison, who is amongst those to endorse Yousaf.

In 2021, El-Nakla launched a legal case against a nursery in Broughty Ferry, claiming it had discriminated against the family by failing to offer then two-year-old Amal a place. This case was dropped prior to reaching court last month.

During his campaign, images recirculated of Yousaf assisting a child from a refugee boat in Greece in 2015, but that too was related to his day job. He was Europe and international development minister at the time and was visiting Lesbos to see what support was provided to those coming ashore.

At the time, he told how he'd spoken to a tailor from Aleppo, Syria, who reminded him of his own grandfather. "I said to him that I hope that wherever he ends up in Europe, he has the same luck that my grandfather had," Yousaf said.

Yousaf made his grandfather's story part of his leadership pitch, launching his campaign in Clydebank, where his dad's father found work at the Singer sewing machine family after arriving from Pakistan in the 1960s. "I see my ancestral roots as being not just Pakistani, but running through Clydebank, which brought me to where I am today," he said.

Campaign pledges

Outlining his vision for Scotland, Yousaf has described himself as his "own man", stressing he will do things his way. That follows suggestions that he would continue the programme started by Sturgeon without offering his own policies.

Yousaf's campaign has been run by well-regarded Scottish Government minister Neil Gray, who now holds the Europe and international development portfolio, and was backed by the lion's share of cabinet members and ministers, including the influential John Swinney.

His promises to the party include potential wealth taxes, free football club membership for children, a human rights bill to incorporate UN treaties into Scots law and universal childcare for one and two-year-olds.

He has further pledged to expand the SNP's internal Independence Unit, take forward plans to treat misogyny as a criminal offence and ringfence revenues from the Crown Estate's Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas Offshore wind leasing round to invest in state-owned onshore renewables projects.

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