Less than a day into the job, and opposition parties are already calling on new SNP leader Humza Yousaf to call a general election.
Yousaf was elected as the new leader of the SNP yesterday, and will today face a vote in Scottish Parliament before he is formally elected as First Minister of Scotland.
He had been widely considered the frontrunner in the contest to succeed Nicola Sturgeon, but recorded a narrower victory than some expected over rival Kate Forbes. After Ash Regan was eliminated from the race, second preference votes had to be taken into account - and Yousaf recorded 52% of the votes in comparison with Forbes’ 48%.
In a speech after the result was announced, he pledged to “dedicate every waking moment” to serving the people of Scotland. The former Health Secretary - who has become the first person of an ethnic minority to hold the country’s highest office - also took a moment to say his victory was a reminder to “celebrate the contribution of migrants”.
But how have opposition parties reacted to the news? Here’s what’s been said so far by key figures in the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Lib Dems, and more.
Sir Keir Starmer sent his congratulations to Yousaf following his victory, noting that he was “the first First Minister of an ethnic minority background”, which he said was a “significant moment for Scotland.”
However, the Labour Party leader was also quick to dismiss Yousaf and the party he now leads, remarking: “The SNP do not have the answers on the NHS or on the cost of living crisis. Only Labour can provide the change that Scotland needs.”
Meanwhile, the leader of Scottish Labour echoed Starmer’s comments about this “being a significant moment for Scotland”, but went on to argue Yousaf does not have a mandate as he repeated his previous calls for an election. Anas Sarwar said: “While Scotland faces the twin crises of the cost of living and the NHS emergency, it is clear that the SNP does not have the answers that Scotland needs.
“This chaotic and divided party is out of touch and out of ideas. Humza Yousaf has inherited the SNP’s woeful record, but he has not inherited Nicola Sturgeon’s mandate. We need an election now and Scottish Labour is the change that Scotland needs.”
Following the announcement, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats was quick to criticise Yousaf’s record as Scottish Health Secretary - something for which the MSP frequently came under fire throughout his campaign trail.
Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “There are huge challenges facing our country but sadly Humza Yousaf has not proven equal to those challenges in his previous roles. That’s not just my verdict, but that of his colleague Kate Forbes.
“On his watch, one in seven Scots are on a waiting list and his NHS recovery plan has completely failed to tackle crises in A&E, cancer care, mental health and dentistry.” Cole-Hamilton also said he would put himself forward to be selected as First Minister in tomorrow’s vote by MSPs.
“This leadership contest has shown Humza Yousaf will always prioritise breaking up the UK,” Cole-Hamilton said, in a reference to the independence movement. “My priorities are the cost of living crisis, the state of the NHS, and the climate emergency. That is what the public want to see Scotland’s Parliament focused on at this difficult time.”
Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, congratulated Yousaf on his victory before urging him to “govern for all of Scotland”. He said that the Tories encourage the former Health Secretary to “abandon his divisive plans to push independence relentlessly as the self-styled ‘first activist’.”
He added that as the main opposition party, the Tories will “hold Humza Yousaf to account when he lets the Scottish people down” as they have “serious concerns about his ability.”
“For the good of Scotland,” Ross continued, “we hope he does not lurch from failure to failure as he did when he was Nicola Sturgeon’s Health Secretary, Justice Secretary and transport minister. Humza Yousaf’s election as leader shows that the SNP are moving further and further away from the real priorities of the Scottish people to obsess over independence.
“The Scottish Conservatives will continue to focus on the issues that matter to people across the country, such as strengthening our economy, supporting our struggling NHS, and helping families with the global cost-of-living crisis.”
Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak, whose government has in recent months experienced a somewhat acrimonious relationship with the SNP, has not yet publicly commented on the news - although Downing Street has said the Prime Minister “looks forward” to working with Yousaf in the future.
When asked about Yousaf’s push for independence, a spokesperson told reporters: “I think you know our well-established position. Reducing inflation, dealing with the cost of living, tackling backlogs - those are the issues the public care about. That’s what the government will be focused on.
“More broadly, you’ve heard the Levelling Up Secretary congratulate Humza Yousaf on his election as leader of the Scottish National Party, and of course, the Prime Minister looks forward to working with him in the future.”
Speaking earlier in the House of Commons, Michael Gove said: “Can I on behalf of the government extend my congratulations to Humza Yousaf on his election as leader of the Scottish National Party. And we look forward to working with him in the future.”
In a jab at the independence movement, the MP went on to say: “It has been noted that he won by the margin of 52% to 48%, so I hope that SNP colleagues will agree there is no need for another vote.”