Analysis

SNP: Westminster leader Stephen Flynn backs Humza Yousaf to deliver independence and unite the party

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Humza Yousaf was elected leader of the SNP, but faces a challenge to unify the party and membership

Humza Yousaf's leadership election win has ushered in a new era for the SNP and Scottish politics.

The country - and party - are looking towards a post-Sturgeon world, the first time in eight years that the former First Minister will not be at the helm of the Scottish Government. However, the election trail has laid bare some of the ugliest blemishes on the party and brought to the surface cracks and divisions.

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From accusations of mudslinging in the hustings, to political own goals with membership numbers, Yousaf inherits a party in need of change and unity. The former Health Secretary narrowly won with 52% of the vote to Kate Forbes' 48%, after second-preference votes were counted.

But is Yousaf the man to lead his party to unity and to independence? NationalWorld got reaction from prominent figures within the party to find out if the new leader can pull the SNP out of the mud.

'It's an opportunity for a fresh start'

"Humza set out the stall on the stage when he said there would be no ‘Team Kate’ ‘Team Ash’ or 'Team Humza’ - it’ll be ‘Team SNP’. That’s what I wanted to hear, I’m sure that’s what the membership wanted to hear and I think it’s expected of us," Stephen Flynn, Westminster leader of the SNP, told NationalWorld.

"The public would expect nothing less than the party to come together to focus on good government because there are, of course, challenges at this moment in time, some real challenges, some difficult challenges. Humza is the right person to bring us together and lead us forward together."

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Humza Yousaf won the SNP leadership election with 52% of the vote. (Credit: Getty Images)Humza Yousaf won the SNP leadership election with 52% of the vote. (Credit: Getty Images)
Humza Yousaf won the SNP leadership election with 52% of the vote. (Credit: Getty Images) | Getty Images

The election process has not been without some hiccups. Notably, the SNP made somewhat of an own goal when it released its membership numbers, confirming that it had lost 30,000 members, despite telling the media this was not true. Chief executive Peter Murrell, who is Nicola Sturgeon's husband, was among the figures to resign as a result of the membership row.

Flynn called this moment "regrettable" but said that it provides a new beginning for the party as a while, saying: "There has undoubtedly been an issue in relation to process over the course of the last few weeks and the release of that information, I think that is regrettable. But we are where we are now, it’s an opportunity for a fresh start not just in terms of leadership of the party but also for a fresh start for leadership at Scottish National Party headquarters as well and I’m sure we will take that forward."

This fresh start comes at the time of the new 'era' for the SNP. Flynn himself only just replaced Ian Blackford - a very close political ally to Sturgeon - as Westminster Leader down south a few months ago.

Flynn said: "There’s some hugely significant figures in the SNP who have been around for a long time, who have delivered so much, Mike Russell being one of them. Nicola [Sturgeon], John [Swinney] and so many others and now it's incumbent on us, the next generation - myself, Humza, Kate [Forbes] , Mhairi [Black], Neil Gray, there's so many to name - to take things forward, to convince the people of Scotland that we can govern well which I believe we can and hopefully take us to that independent future."

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He added: "I’m delighted that Humza has received the mandate from the membership to become our leader and likely Scotland’s next First Minister. He stood on a clear platform of addressing the cost of living crisis, expanding childcare, delivering on net zero which is really important to me to ensure that there are jobs and opportunities across the north east of Scotland. 

"He’s going to take forward all of that, take that big tent approach and hopefully deliver independence that we all want to see."

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said that Humza Yousaf's win will give the party a "fresh start". (Credit: Getty Images)SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said that Humza Yousaf's win will give the party a "fresh start". (Credit: Getty Images)
SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said that Humza Yousaf's win will give the party a "fresh start". (Credit: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Unity is needed for the future

The close margin between Forbes and Yousaf in the final results is indicative of the party's division. Both candidates had clashed on a number of issues, most notable sharing opposing views on the controversial gender reform bill which had been blocked from becoming law by the UK Government in December 2022.

Scotland’s Health Minister Humza Yousaf reacts as he wins the election to become the next leader of SNP. Credit: Getty ImagesScotland’s Health Minister Humza Yousaf reacts as he wins the election to become the next leader of SNP. Credit: Getty Images
Scotland’s Health Minister Humza Yousaf reacts as he wins the election to become the next leader of SNP. Credit: Getty Images | Getty Images

However, some Forbes supporters have taken the result in their stride and look towards Yousaf leading Scotland to independence.

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"Hats off to the three candidates because it has been a really gruelling slog, this whole process. It has been quite bruising. I really admire all of them for being able to put their head above the parapet," said Siobhian Brown, MSP for Ayr.

"Now that Humza has won and he has the support of the membership, we've just all got to get behind him. We've just got to respect the membership."

Fellow Forbes backer Stephanie Callaghan, MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill, added: "It's one member, one vote - it's incredibly fair and exactly how it should be.

"Our members have chosen and now we're totally behind the leader. And I think it's really important as well that we have something that really binds us.

"Despite the candidates having some different views in different areas, everyone is focused on independence and that is a fantastic foundation to build from and we will all be supporting Humza."

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