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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Scotland’s First Minister resigns

Pro-independence and pro-Palestine Humza Yousaf has quit after just over a year in power

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf announced his resignation on Monday during a press conference in Edinburgh. He came to power just over a year ago.

The 39-year-old stepped down following his decision to end a power-sharing deal between his pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Green Party over a dispute on climate change targets. Yousaf had hoped to lead a minority government, but opposition parties indicated they would not back him, with two parties proposing votes of no confidence. The Greens also said they would not support the first minister.

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Yousaf told the news conference it was “absolutely possible” he could have won a confidence vote by cutting a deal, however he was not willing to trade his principles simply to hold on to power. He will stay on as first minister until the SNP chooses his replacement, he added.

The Scottish Parliament now has 28 days to choose a new first minister before an election is forced

The resignation makes Yousaf the shortest serving SNP leader since Scotland got its own government in 1998. He was also the first Muslim head of government in modern Western Europe and the first Muslim to lead a major UK party.

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Yousaf is a supporter of Scotland’s secession from the UK and re-joining the EU as an independent country. Last year he signed a new strategy that stated that the SNP would begin immediate negotiations with the British government on Scotland quitting the UK if the party wins a majority of Scottish seats at the general election. The vote is expected to be held in the second half of this year.

In June, he said that if Scotland secured independence from the United Kingdom, it would move to rejoin the European Union. Scots chose to remain within the UK in a 2014 referendum, but faced with the realities of post-Brexit Britain, there is renewed feeling for severing ties with London and looking towards Brussels, Yousaf claimed.

Yousaf’s wife, Nadia, is of Palestinian origin. The first minister’s in-laws were trapped in Gaza for four weeks last autumn after going there to visit relatives.

In January, the SNP leader said that Israel’s actions in Gaza are “tantamount to ethnic cleansing” and said that the UK government’s refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was “shameful.” He also repeatedly called on London to end arms sales to Israel.