Humza Yousaf wins SNP leadership election to replace Nicola Sturgeon

Humza Yousaf has narrowly won the bitterly-fought contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon as the SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister, winning by just over 2,000 votes.

The 37-year-old is set to become Scotland’s youngest first minister and the first person from a minority ethnic background to hold the post after the result was announced at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh.

Viewed as the continuity candidate, Mr Yousaf said he felt like “the luckiest man in the world” to lead the party he “loves so dearly” – calling it “the greatest honour and privilege” of his life.

Kate Forbes – the 32-year-old finance secretary who repeatedly clashed with Mr Yousaf over his record – finished runner-up. Ash Reagan, the outsider who has staked out the most hardline position on Scottish independence, finished third.


Ms Regan took just 5,599 (11 per cent) of the votes in the first round of the contest decided by SNP members. When second preferences were distributed in the second stage, Mr Yousaf took 26,032 (52 per cent) and Kate Forbes took 23,890 (48 per cent).

It has not been a smooth process, with acrimonious clashes between candidates and the dramatic resignation of chief executive Peter Murrell – Ms Sturgeon’s husband – following controversy over the transparency of SNP membership numbers.

Interim chief executive Mike Russell admitted the party was in “a tremendous mess” after the membership row, while even Ms Sturgeon described the contest as “fractious” and acknowledged the party was suffering from “growing pains”.

Polls had made Mr Yousaf favourite among SNP voters, but viewed as he faces an uphill battle to win over others. The most recent Ipsos Scotland found that Ms Forbes was viewed more favourably by the general public – with a net rating of minus 8 per cent, compared with Mr Yousaf’s minus 20 per cent.

Ms Sturgeon announced in February that she would resign after more than eight years in the job, but she did not have a succession plan and has left the push for Scottish independence at an impasse.

She departed months after Rishi Sunak’s government and the Supreme Court refused to allow Holyrood to hold its own indy2 referendum.

Ms Regan – the outsider who branded the other two candidates “wishy washy” – vowed to make every single election a “de facto” referendum on separation until the Westminster government gives in.

But Mr Yousaf suggested the party had to go back to the drawing board and win more support for independence before getting locked onto a particular path.

The winner said the party had to win “a consistent majority for independence”, claiming that the legal obstacles would then simply “disappear”.

Of the three candidates, only Mr Yousaf has said he would continue to fight the UK government in court after Rishi Sunak and his ministers blocked the gender self-ID legislation.

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