Humza Yousaf: ‘independence can unleash Scotland’s potential’
By Guillermo Garrido
Edinburgh, UK, Mar 21 (EFE).- Humza Yousaf, the favorite in the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s first minister, wants to “inspire” with his “vision” of independence from the United Kingdom, which he says will “unleash Scotland’s potential.”
In an exclusive interview, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care tells Efe that if he is chosen as the new leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), “every election (…) will be fought on the issue of independence.”
An independence referendum was last held in 2014, when voters were asked if Scotland should be an independent country, with the “No” side winning 55.3% of the vote.
However, the SNP and other supporters of Scottish independence believe that the UK’s decision to withdraw from the European Union in 2016 has opened the door for a second referendum, given that over 60% of people in Scotland voted against Brexit.
“We have a mandate for another referendum. That is crystal clear,” Yousaf says, “but to gain independence we’re going to have to build a consistent majority (…) We don’t have that yet.”
Garnering that support and building on the legacy left by Sturgeon – who made the surprise announcement last month that she was stepping down from the role – will be Yousaf’s main objectives if elected as the new SNP leader.
“We have to inspire people with a vision,” Yousaf says. “People don’t get inspired by talks of de facto referendums or section 30 orders, they get inspired and support independence when we can tell them what we can do with the powers of independence.
“With independence and the full powers of independence, we can unleash Scotland’s potential,” he says.
The SNP leadership race is heating up in its last week, with Yousaf vying against Scotland’s Secretary for Finance and the Economy, Kate Forbes, and the former Minister for Community Safety, Ash Regan.
Yousaf is positioning himself as the experienced and progressive candidate against the more conservative Forbes, who has spoken out against abortion and same-sex marriage.
“I’ve got experience: 10 and a half years in government, some of the most difficult jobs in government. The SNP and the independence movement has won so much support over the years because of our progressive agenda, and I want to build on that,” he says, adding that he would be the only candidate who can protect the pro-independence majority in the Scottish parliament, secured through a deal with the Green Party.
There have been complaints of an alleged lack of transparency in the SNP’s voting process, with Sturgeon’s husband, the SNP’s executive director Peter Murrell, and the SNP’s head of communications, Murray Foote, both resigning after it emerged that there are only 72,000 eligible voters, significantly lower than the 100,000 that had been advertised.
Forbes’ campaign has even called for an external auditor to be appointed, while Regan has said that members who have already voted should be allowed to change their ballot.
Yousaf, however, pointed out that the SNP has used the same process “for many years.”
“We’ve used it for other elections, and there’s never been an issue that’s been raised, certainly within the SNP, about that process. But other candidates have got concerns. The only thing I’d ask them to do is produce the evidence. Not hearsay, but tangible, credible evidence,” he says. EFE