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The new party leader is due to be confirmed as first minister by Scottish lawmakers on Tuesday.
Scotland’s governing party has elected Humza Yousaf as its new leader after a bruising five-week contest that exposed deep fractures within the pro-independence movement.
Yousaf will lead the Scottish National Party as a successor to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who unexpectedly stepped down last month after eight years as leader of the party and of Scotland’s semi-autonomous government.
The 37-year-old Scot of Pakistani heritage was the favourite to win the leadership race. He was recently the health secretary in charge of the crisis-hit National Health Service (NHS) during the coronavirus pandemic.
“From the Punjab to our parliament, this is a journey for our generations,” he said in an impassioned victory speech, referencing his South Asian origins.
Yousaf also said he has a “passion” for Scottish independence.
“Using our devolved powers to the absolute maximum effect to tackle the challenges of today,” he said.
“I will ensure our drive for independence is in fifth gear. The people of Scotland need independence now more than ever,” he added.
Scotland voted against independence by 55 percent to 45 percent in 2014.
Britain’s vote to leave the European Union two years later when a majority of Scots wanted to stay, and Scotland’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic brought new support for independence.
However, an opinion poll showed the backing for independence dropped to 39 percent this month after touching a record 58 percent in 2020.