Humza Yousaf is a Scottish politician who has served as First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) since March 2023. He served under his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon as justice secretary from 2018 to 2021 and then as health secretary from 2021 to 2023. He has been Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Glasgow Pollok since 2016, having previously been a regional MSP for Glasgow from 2011 to 2016.
Humza Yousaf's father, Muzaffar Yousaf, was born in Mian Channu Pakistan, before coming to Glasgow in the late 1960's. He was the first non-white member of the Scottish National Party (SNP) joining in 1979. Humza followed his father's footsteps and has been an active member of the Scottish National Party since 2004. The SNP is Scotland's only political party which strives for Scotland's independence from the rest of the UK.
Humza Yousaf was born in Glasgow on 7 April 1985, where he has lived his whole life. After graduating from Glasgow University, with honours in Politics, in 2007 Humza Yousaf worked as a Parliamentary Aide for Bashir Ahmed, the first Pakistani elected to the Scottish Parliament. In addition he has worked with various other members of the Scottish Parliament including Anne McLaughlin MSP, Nicola Sturgeon MSP and First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond MSP.
Prior to his election to parliament in 2011, he worked in the SNP's party headquarters as a communications officer. Appointed as a junior minister under Salmond in 2012, Humza Yousaf served as the minister for external affairs and international development until 2014. Although his political interests are varied, Humza has publicly commented on the Middle East conflict, Scottish Independence, multiculturalism and counter terror measures in the UK.
Humza Yousaf was elected to the Scottish Parliament as an additional member for the Glasgow electoral region in the 2011 election. At 26 years old, he was the youngest MSP to be elected to the 4th parliament. When being sworn in, he took his oath in Scottish English and then in Urdu, reflecting his Scottish-Pakistani identity; he was dressed in a traditional sherwani decorated with a Partick Thistle tartan touch, and a plaid draped over his shoulder.
He served on the SNP's backbenches and was a member of the parliament's justice and public audit committees. On 25 May 2011, Humza Yousaf was appointed as a Parliamentary Liaison Officer to the Office of the First Minister, remaining in this post until 4 September 2012.
On 5 September 2012, First Minister Alex Salmond appointed Humza Yousaf as Minister for External Affairs and International Development, responsible for external affairs, international development; fair trade policy and diaspora. This junior ministerial appointment saw him working under the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs. He was the first Scottish Asian and Muslim to be appointed as a minister to the Scottish Government.
In October 2013, he outlined the SNP's plans to set out the United Nations target for overseas aid at 0.7% in an independent Scotland and accused the UK Government of going back on its promise in the 2010 coalition agreement to guarantee that level of spending. Humza Yousaf also outlined that an independent Scotland would add a progressive voice to global issues promoting peace, equality and fairness and added independence would be achieved through a democratic, peaceful means without a single drop of blood being spilled and engaging with all the diverse communities that make up our rich tapestry in Scotland.
Humza Yousaf supported Nicola Sturgeon's successful leadership bid in 2014 and after she was sworn in as first minister, he was subsequently appointed as the Europe minister before being appointed minister for transport and the islands in 2016. As part of a cabinet reshuffle of Nicola Sturgeon's second ministry in 2018, Humza Yousaf was promoted to the cabinet as justice secretary. He introduced a controversial bill to parliament which ultimately became law as the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021.
He has also been a strong advocate reminding Scotland of its international aid obligations, and it was a matter of great pride that the SNP-led Scottish Government gave Pakistan £1.2m during the tragic floods of 2010.
In 2021, Humza Yousaf was appointed health secretary during the later phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and was responsible for the NHS's recovery, as well as the mass roll-out of the vaccination programme which began under his predecessor. Following the Nicola Sturgeon's resignation as leader of the SNP and as first minister, Humza Yousaf won the 2023 SNP leadership election, defeating Kate Forbes with 52% to her 48% in the final stage.
In addition, Humza is involved in various inter-faith initiatives and was one of the organisers of the historic Scotland United against terror rally after the Glasgow Airport attacks in 2007. Humza has also been involved in a range of other activities such as volunteering in a Glasgow based community radio station, youth mentoring and producing and distributing food packs for asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow.
Humza is an Alumni of the US State Department's prestigious IVLP (international visitor leadership programme). In December 2009, Humza was presented the Political Force of the Future Award at Glasgow City Chambers as part of the Young Scottish Minority Ethnic Awards. Humza was also named as one of “The Ones to Watch” by the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.
He described the September 11 attacks as the 'day that changed the world and for me' when he was 16 years old. Prior to the attack, Humza Yousaf was close to two pupils whom he sat next to in his registration class, but after the attack in New York, he claims that they asked him questions such as, 'Why do Muslims hate America?' He was awarded the 'Future Force of Politics' at the Young Scottish Minority Ethnic Awards in 2009, which was presented to him in Glasgow City Chambers.
One of his flagship policies was the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, which he promised would streamline existing legislation as well as add additional protections to minorities while maintaining rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The bill has been criticised by the Catholic Church, the National Secular Society as well as writers, and in September 2020 it was amended to remove prosecution for cases of unintentionally stirring up hate, which could theoretically include libraries stocking contentious books. Despite his initial promises, Humza Yousaf in October 2020 said that the exception to the Public Order Act 1986 which allows people to use 'otherwise illegal language' in their own homes should be abolished.
Humza Yousaf's paternal grandfather worked in the Singer sewing machine factory in Clydebank in the 1960s. Humza Yousaf's mother, Shaaista Bhutta, was born in Nairobi, Kenya, to a family of Punjabi descent. He belongs to the Rajput community. Her family experienced violent racially motivated attacks on several occasions for being seen as taking jobs that "belonged" to Africans, and they later immigrated to Scotland. Humza attended Mearns Primary School in East Renfrewshire. Humza Yousaf was one of two ethnic-minority pupils to attend his primary school. Humza Yousaf was privately educated at Hutchesons Grammar School, an independent school in Glasgow, where his Modern Studies lessons inspired him to become involved in politics.
Humza has been active in Glasgow in a range of community activities from a young age. He has been a volunteer for the International development NGO Islamic Relief since the age of 10. He has voluntarily worked as the media spokesman for Islamic Relief Scotland, helping to manage campaigns during the Kashmir earthquake, the Swat Valley conflict, Haiti earthquake and recent Pakistan flooding.
Outside of politics Humza Yousaf is a keen football player and has supported Celtic Football Club his whole life, attended games when he can. In addition, Humza has an interest in motorbikes, owning one himself, and enjoys going for long rides with fellow bikers across the UK.