The Scottish National Party elected Humza Yousaf as its new leader Monday. This comes after what analysts describe as a bruising five-week campaign that exposed deep cracks in Scotland's pro-independence movement.
The 37-year-old Yousaf, who is currently Scotland's health minister, will be Scotland's first Muslim and first person of color to serve as First Minister. He will succeed Nicola Sturgeon, who unexpectedly stepped down from her position last month after eight years.
Yousaf is widely seen as a 'continuity of Sturgeon,' as they share similar social liberal views. Yousaf said his main goals are to concentrate on tackling the cost-of-living crisis, end divisions in the ruling SNP party, and make a renewed push for independence.
Yousaf narrowly beat two other Scottish lawmakers, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and member of Parliament Ash Regan with 52% of the vote. All three candidates share the mission of independence but differ in their economic and social visions for Scotland.
'The people of Scotland need independence now, more than ever before and we will be the generation that delivers independence,' Yousaf said in a speech in Edinburgh after the results were announced.
Both Forbes and Regan opposed a controversial bill championed by Sturgeon to make it easier for people in Scotland to legally change their gender, while Yousaf supported it. The bill is hailed as a landmark piece of legislation by transgender rights activists but has faced opposition from some SNP members who said it did not consider the need to protect single-sex spaces for women, such as domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers.
Scottish voters backed remaining in the United Kingdom with 55% of the vote in a 2014 referendum. The SNP wants a new vote, but the central government in London has refused to authorize one, and the U.K. Supreme Court has ruled that Scotland can't hold one without London's consent.
The SNP is the largest of the country's political parties with 72,000 members. The unity of the party has been its greatest strength but recently that has weakened due to disagreements over how to achieve independence and the best way to introduce social reforms such as transgender rights. Other prominent parties include the Scottish Conservative Party, the Scottish Labour Party, and the Scottish Greens.
Some information from this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.