LONDON (Reuters) - Hamza Yusuf made history in the United Kingdom and Europe by becoming leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), as the first minority to reach the position that paves the way for him to become prime minister, after a parliamentary vote on Tuesday.
Hamza Yousif, who is of Pakistani descent, succeeded in the post after a stormy election campaign against Kate Forbes and Ash Reagan, both prominent faces in the SNP.
After weeks of debates and electoral battles, Hamza won 52% of the Scottish National Party vote, compared to Kate Forbes 48%. Turnout was around 70 per cent, with only the 72,<> members of the Scottish National Party participating.
Hamza Yusuf won 52% of the Scottish National Party votes compared to 48% for his rival Kate Forbes (Reuters)
Hamza Youssef's arrival to this position was not easy, and his path was not paved with flowers, as he previously held sensitive ministerial positions, such as the Ministry of Justice and then the Ministry of Health during the Corona pandemic. Several factors contributed to this electoral victory:
- First: The great support that Hamza Yusuf received from the leaders of the Scottish National Party, especially the outgoing Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who openly declared her support for Hamza Youssef, to be joined by a number of first-line leaders in the party. Hamza Yusuf is seen as a continuation of Sturgeon's political line, especially in dealing with the issue of secession.
- Second: The clarity of Hamza's program, especially with regard to separation from the United Kingdom, and Hamza Youssef stressed that he will make the upcoming general elections - expected to take place at the end of 2024 - a referendum on secession.
If the SNP wins an absolute majority, it would mean significant support for the referendum, and Hamza Yusuf has promised that he could go ahead with the secession referendum even without the approval of London and the British Parliament.
This clarity reinforced Hamza Yusuf's position among the SNP rank-and-file, unlike rival Kate Forbes, who said there was no talk of a secession referendum at the moment.
- Third, Scotland's difficult economic situation is going through, as the country has the highest poverty rate since 2007, the year the Scottish National Party came to power.
Hamza Yusuf promised that his first decision would be to organize a national conference to fight poverty, and launch projects and budgets to help affected families. In contrast, his rival Kate Forbes is aligned with the rich and the conservative right.
Hamza Youssef held the positions of Minister of Justice and then Minister of Health during the Corona pandemic, which gave him great ministerial experience (Getty Images)
Welcome and challenges
One of the first explanations of Hamza Yusuf's victory as leader of the ruling Scottish National Party was a tweet by Stefan Nunn, a strategic mind within the party and one of the top leaders of the secession referendum.
Noon writes that the recent election shows that the SNP still maintains its old structure between the countryside, where wealthy conservative families live, and between the cities, where opportunities are created and wealth is distributed.
Noon added that this duality has always been good for the party and serves it in times of crisis. It appears that it was the bloc of cities and the middle class that excelled during the last election, which is understandable given Scotland's difficult living situation.
As for the political reactions, most of them focused on Hamza Yusuf becoming the first minority prime minister to reach this position, which is why Scottish Labour Party leader Anas Sarwar – who is also a Muslim – was quick to congratulate Hamza Yusuf, stressing that this is a historic and pivotal moment in the country's history.
Anas Sarwar said in his statement that "the responsibility placed on Hamza is great given the catastrophic situation that Scotland has reached."
London Mayor Sadiq Khan congratulated Hamza Yusuf on his historic victory, saying the victory had implications "that no one can ignore and Scotland and London have a lot in common, and I am waiting for joint work together."
Sadiq Khan and Hamza Yusuf share Pakistani Muslim ancestry, both of which have gone down in history: Sadiq Khan was the first Muslim to become mayor of London and Yusuf was the first Muslim to become Scotland's prime minister.
On the other hand, Hamza Youssef's victory was met with much resentment among the conservative right and racists, who circulated a clip of Hamza Youssef criticizing the presidency of all government and senior official positions by white people in the absence of diversity, and many tweets circulated this clip with phrases critical of Hamza Youssef, stressing that "Scotland is a country for whites first."