Pakistani-origin Humza Yousaf resigns as Scotland’s First Minister

He was the first Muslim to be on the post

Scotland First Minister resigns Scotland First Minister Humza Yousaf leaves Bute House, Edinburgh, the official residence of the First Minister, after announcing his resignation | AP

Humza Yousaf, the Pakistani-origin Scottish National Party (SNP) leader who heads the devolved government in Scotland, on Monday announced his resignation after days of political turmoil which has thrown the regional SNP-led administration into doubt.

Yousaf, 39, took over as Scotland's first Muslim and also the region's youngest First Minister in March last year.

Last week, he ended a power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Green Party amid growing policy differences and plunged his leadership of a minority government into crisis. His former Green Party allies then teamed up with the Opposition Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties to back two non-confidence motions one in Yousaf's leadership of Scotland and the second regarding the Scottish government as a whole.

While a route through this week's motion of no confidence was absolutely possible, I am not willing to trade my values and principles or do deals with whomever simply for retaining power, said Yousaf.

Therefore, after spending the weekend reflecting on what is best for my party, for the government and for the country I lead I have concluded that repairing our relationship across the political divide can only be done with someone else at the helm, he said.

In his speech delivered at Bute House in Edinburgh, he noted on an emotional note: I am sad that my time as First Minister is ending, but I am so grateful, I am so blessed, for having the opportunity that are afforded to so few to lead my country and who could ask for a better country to lead than Scotland.

Yousaf, of Pakistani and Kenyan heritage, paid tribute to the UK's diversity and also referenced Rishi Sunak as Britain's first Hindu Prime Minister in his resignation speech.

He added: People who looked like me were not in positions of political influence, let alone leading governments, when I was younger. We now live in a UK that has a British Hindu Prime Minister (Sunak), a Muslim Mayor of London (Sadiq Khan), a black Welsh First Minister (Vaughan Gething), and for a little while longer a Scottish Asian First Minister of this country.

So for those who decry that multiculturalism has failed across the UK, I would suggest that the evidence is quite to the contrary and that is something we should all celebrate."

He will remain in his post until a replacement First Minister is chosen in the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood. It marks a time of upheaval for the pro-independence SNP even though the outgoing leader claimed Scottish independence feels frustratingly close.

The last few miles of the marathon are always the hardest and we have run this race as a team and will now prepare to pass the baton to a successor who I am absolutely certain will lead us over the finish line, said Yousaf.

The Opposition parties welcomed his resignation, with the Scottish Tories saying Yousaf had averted a humiliating defeat at a vote of no confidence later this week and the Labour Party demanding a UK-wide general election soon for a fresh start across the country.

Meanwhile, the race to replace Yousaf has commenced, with party veteran John Swinney an ex-deputy to former first minister Nicola Sturgeon leading the fray. Swinney said he had been "overwhelmed" by messages from colleagues asking him to contest and will have to consider before making an announcement in the coming days.

Stephen Flynn, who represents the SNP as a member of Parliament in the House of Commons in London, and Kate Forbes, who lost out to Yousaf previously, are among the other contenders. Forbes, who spent some of her formative years in India where her parents worked as Christian missionaries, had been Yousaf's closest rival in last year's SNP leadership election. 

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