Humza Yousaf narrowly elected new Scottish National Party leader
Yousaf wins 52.1 percent of the vote after second preferences counted to see off main rival Kate Forbes. He is poised to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as first minister.
LONDON — Humza Yousaf has replaced Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party in a narrow victory over main rival Kate Forbes, the party announced Monday.
Currently the Scottish government’s health secretary, Yousaf will become Scotland’s next first minister this week. After second preference votes were taken into account, he won 52.1 percent of the vote to 47.9 percent for rival Forbes.
It represents a slim margin of victory over Forbes, an SNP rising star who ran as a change candidate with occasional attacks on Yousaf and the SNP’s record in government. Yousaf is close to Sturgeon and ran promising continuity.
Sturgeon is expected to formally resign as first minister of the devolved Scottish government on Tuesday, which will begin the process that will see Yousaf take up the post by Wednesday. The Scottish parliament — where the SNP hold a plurality of seats and a pro-independence majority alongside the Scottish greens — will vote to confirm Yousaf as first minister-designate on Tuesday afternoon.
The long-serving Sturgeon’s resignation as party leader in February kicked off the leadership contest, which proved to be a fractious contest between Yousaf, Forbes and the third, anti-establishment, candidate Ash Regan.
Forbes’ bid took an early blow when she came under pressure for her views on social issues, including her personal opposition — as a devout Christian — to same-sex marriage. She said she would have voted against legalising gay marriage when Holyrood did so before she became an MSP.
The criticism got louder after Forbes described the Scottish government’s record under Sturgeon as one of “mediocrity.”
Amid those comments, the vast majority of Sturgeon’s government cabinet rowed behind Yousaf’s bid, including her respected deputy John Swinney.
But the close result shows that SNP members aren’t quite so sure about the health secretary.
He may also struggle with the wider Scottish public. Ipsos polling last week shows that 42 percent of Scots have an unfavorable opinion of the new SNP leader, compared to just 22 percent who have a positive view.
This developing story is being updated.