Bhangra and Bagpipes: Pakistani Scotsman Humza Yousaf Takes Over as New Leader of Scotland
- With Rishi Sunak in London, Leo Varadkar in Dublin and Humza Yousaf in Edinburgh, leaders of South Asian origin rule the British Isles.
Humza Yousaf, whose ancestry can be traced to Pakistan, became the new First Minister of Scotland to head the devolved government in Edinburgh. He makes history by becoming the first non-white and Muslim head of the Scottish government. He joins British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister (taoiseach) Leo Varadkar of Ireland in completing the capture of top leadership in the British Isles by men of South Asian origin.
“The triumph of British-born Yousaf, whose family trace their ancestry to Pakistan, is just the latest reflection of how times have changed as people of South Asian descent occupy leadership roles in the British, Scottish and Irish parliaments, CNN said in a report.
In his acceptance speech on Monday after securing a majority of votes to become the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), the 37-year-old Yousaf said, “My grandparents made the trip from Punjab to Scotland over 60 years ago. As immigrants to this country who knew barely a word of English, they could not have imagined in their wildest dreams that their grandson would one day be on the cusp of being the next first minister.”
Yousaf dressed in a black shalwar kameez was sworn in as Scotland’s First Minister on Wednesday in a ceremony blending formal tradition with his Pakistani heritage, Reuters reported. He is also the first Muslim to lead a democratic western European nation, the report added.
Although his political leanings are republican and has previously said he wants to replace the monarchy with an elected head of state if he achieves his dream of ending Scotland’s three-centuries-long political union with England, in his oath on Wednesday Yousaf pledged an oath of allegiance to King Charles.
However, he remained consistent with his party’s determination to secede from Britain by saying, “As we make the case for Scottish independence, we will continue to govern well and demonstrate to the people of Scotland the benefits of decisions about their lives being taken here in Scotland.”
Glasgow-born Yousaf, who referred to himself as coming from a “bhangra and bagpipes” heritage, narrowly won a leadership race on Monday after a bruising contest that followed the surprise resignation last month of Nicola Sturgeon, who had dominated Scottish politics for almost a decade, Reuters reported.
Interestingly, Yousaf’s opponent in the Scottish Parliament is Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, also a Muslim of Pakistani ancestry.
According to CNN, Yousaf’s father was born in the Pakistani city of Mian Channu, in the country’s sprawling Punjab province that borders India. His mother was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and also to a family of Punjabi descent.
The report also said, “Yousaf joined the SNP while he was a student at the University of Glasgow and rose through the ranks of the party, becoming a member of parliament in 2011 – the first Muslim and non-White cabinet minister to serve in the Scottish Government.”
Yousaf reportedly has often noted that his own background is an example of Scotland’s socially liberal and ethnically diverse landscape, even referring to himself as coming from a “bhangra and bagpipes” heritage.
Yousaf is a practicing Muslim and was married to former SNP worker Gail Lythgoe between 2010 to 2016. In 2019, according to news reports, he married psychotherapist Nadia El-Nakla and has one child and one stepchild.