By:Chandrashekar Bhat

SCOTTISH health secretary Humza Yousaf said on Saturday he would run in the leadership contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon as Scottish National Party (SNP) leader and first minister.

Yousaf becomes the first to publicly announce his intention to stand in the race after Sturgeon’s surprise resignation earlier in the week saying she had become too tired to carry on.

“I have decided to put myself forward as a candidate to become Scotland’s next First Minister, and Leader of the SNP,” the 37-year-old, who has been a member of the Scottish parliament since 2011 and has also held several ministerial roles, said on Twitter.


John Swinney, the 58-year-old deputy first minister, ruled himself out on Thursday (16), saying his decision not to be a candidate was to create the space for a “fresh perspective” on the governing SNP’s aims, including on independence.

The SNP has said it will choose a new leader within six weeks through a ballot of its members, which will close on March 27.

Sturgeon, 52, said she was not leaving politics and that she would stay on until a successor has been picked.

Her unexpected exit has left a question mark over the SNP’s fight for independence as the Westminster government has blocked its attempts to hold a second vote after a 2014 referendum in which Scotland voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The loss of Sturgeon, regarded by many as the best political communicator in Britain, also has the potential to influence the outcome of the next national election if it helps the opposition Labour Party to regain some of the seats it once held in Scotland.

Neil Gray, the minister for culture, Europe and international development has backed Yousaf’s potential candidature.

“My view is that @HumzaYousaf has the skills and experience to bring people across the party and civic Scotland together behind our vision for a fairer independent Scotland. I will therefore be giving him my full support as the next @theSNP leader and First Minister of Scotland,” the member of the Scottish Parliament for Airdrie & Shotts tweeted on Sunday (19).

Yousaf, whose parents immigrated to Glasgow from Pakistan in the 1960s, has been widely tipped as a candidate to succeed Sturgeon ever since her resignation.

Media reports said alongside finance secretary Kate Forbes and constitution secretary Angus Robertson could be other possible candidates for the job.