Humza Yousaf: A tenure as First Minister which was difficult from the start

Humza Yousaf’s time as Scotland’s First Minister was difficult from the start.

While he has avoided being the shortest incumbent of the post, a title held by Labour’s Henry McLeish, who was in office for one year and 12 days between 2000 and 2001, Mr Yousaf has always had a tricky tenure.

He was officially sworn in to the top job in Scottish politics on March 29 2023, after an SNP leadership election sparked when his predecessor, Nicola Sturgeon, who was the longest serving first minister, stepped down.

But almost as soon as he took on the role, he found out that the SNP had been without auditors for months.

Also within days of him taking charge, Ms Sturgeon’s husband, former SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, was arrested by police investigating the whereabouts of £600,000 of donations.

Murrell was subsequently rearrested and charged in April 2024 in connection with the alleged embezzlement of funds.

Scottish Greens Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater were furious when they lost their roles in Government as Humza Yousaf terminated the powersharing agreement (Lesley Martin/PA)

But for much of his time in charge he has appeared to be reacting to events, rather than dictating them.

Perhaps ironically, it was his bid to take control, by ending the powersharing deal with the Scottish Greens before his party’s junior partners in office could hold a vote on whether to continue the arrangement, that brought about his downfall.

After he terminated the Bute House Agreement with immediate effect, despite having previously described it as being “worth its weight in gold”, furious Greens accused Mr Yousaf of “political cowardice” and declared they would vote against him in a vote of no confidence.

That vote took place little over 13 months after Mr Yousaf had become Scotland’s sixth first minister.

Humza Yousaf, pictured with former first minister Alex Salmond, became an MSP in 2011 (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The son of immigrants, Mr Yousaf has spoken repeatedly about how his family had hoped he would become a doctor or a lawyer, but instead he chose to study politics at Glasgow University, joining the SNP in 2005.

In his early life, he crossed paths with current Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who is two years his senior and also attended the private Hutchesons’ Grammar School on Glasgow’s south side.

He began working in politics in 2009, first as a staffer for Bashir Ahmad, who was the first Muslim MSP, and then for both Alex Salmond and Ms Sturgeon.

Mr Yousaf was himself elected as an MSP in 2011, securing a regional list seat for Glasgow.

After a year on the backbenches, he joined the government in 2012 when Mr Salmond appointed him as external affairs and international development minister.

He later became transport minister under Ms Sturgeon, before joining the Scottish cabinet in 2018 as justice secretary, an appointment that came despite his own brush with the law in 2016 when he was caught driving without insurance.

Humza Yousaf and his family on the steps of Bute House as he entered the top job in Scottish politics (Andrew Milligan/PA)

When Ms Sturgeon suddenly announced she was quitting as SNP leader and first minister in early 2023, Mr Yousaf was one of three candidates to throw his hat into the ring for the vacancy.

After a bruising internal leadership contest, he narrowly defeated the then finance secretary Kate Forbes for the post.

At the time, he said becoming first minister was the “honour of my life” but it has also undoubtedly been a difficult period for him.

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