Humza Yousaf was elected as the new leader of the Scottish National Party on Monday. Photo by Robert Perry/EPA-EFE
March 27 (UPI) -- The Scottish National Party on Monday elected Humza Yousaf to serve as its new leader, replacing Nicola Sturgeon who announced her resignation in February.
Yousaf, who served as the party's health minister, made history as the first Muslim ever elected to lead the party.
"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," Yousaf said in his victory speech. "From the Punjab to our parliament, this is a journey over generations that reminds us that we should celebrate migrants who contribute so much to our country."
Sturgeon, gave a full-throated endorsement of Yousaf, saying on Monday he "will be an outstanding leader and first minister" and she could "not be prouder to have him succeed me."
The election, though, exposed significant divisions in the party that has long led Scottish politics. Yousaf took under 50% of the party's vote, with 24,336 votes, or 48%. Kate Forbes grabbed 40%, of 20,559 votes while Ash Regan came in third with 11%, or 5,599.
When second choices were factored in, Yousaf grabbed 52% of the vote against Forbes's 48%.
It also sets up a vote on Tuesday where Yousaf is expected to be confirmed as Scotland's next first minister.
Yousaf said as one of his first acts if elected as first minister would be to hold a poverty summit, responding to figures recently that child poverty in Scotland remained at the same levels as when SNP took power in 2007.
Sturgeon, who was a fervent Brexit foe had rubbed many British leaders the wrong way in calling for a second vote for Scottish independence. Those frictions are expected to continue with Yousaf, who has pushed for another referendum along with Sturgeon.
"My solemn commitment to you is that I will kickstart our grassroots, civic-led movement and ensure our drive for independence is in fifth gear," Yousaf said Monday. "The people of Scotland need independence now more than ever before and we will be the generation that delivers it."
Scottish Conservative Party Leader Douglas Ross wasted no time taking a shot a Yousaf, saying that his policies will offer nothing different from his predecessor.
"A party that [is] anti-growth being at the heart of the Scottish government is not good for Scotland's economy and we need to get Scotland's economy moving again," Ross said.