Humza Yousaf: LGBTQ+ SNP members and politicians breathe sigh of relief at progressive’s victory

The SNP's new leader Humza Yousaf (centre).

New SNP leader Humza Yousaf has “earned his place” as Scotland’s next first minister, LGBTQ+ MPs and groups have said.

Yousaf defeated socially conservative rivals Kate Forbes and Ash Regan on Monday (27 March), capping off a tumultuous election contest that exposed deep divisions in the Scottish National Party. 

He’s set to be confirmed as Scotland’s next first minister, replacing Nicola Sturgeon, in a vote at Holyrood on Tuesday (28 March). He becomes the first Muslim to lead a major UK party.

Yousaf received a tidal wave of support and well wishes after his victory was announced. 

SNP MP John Nicolson said that Yousaf led a “positive and bold campaign”, fighting for LGBTQ+ rights, and thought Yousaf “earned his place in Bute House as our first minister”.

“Humza knows that young voters love our party’s vision of a liberal, progressive, egalitarian independent Scotland,” Nicolson said. “His campaign promised a progressive agenda of fair taxation, defending LGBT+ rights from Westminster attack, and support for the vulnerable at home and abroad.”

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Newly-appointed SNP leader Humza Yousaf wears a suit and tie as he stands in front of a sign in the colours of the Scottish flag
Newly-appointed SNP leader Humza Yousaf promised to fight to protect the rights of all minorities – including LGBTQ+ and trans people – in Scotland. (Getty)

Speaking to PinkNews, Nicolson added: “I think young people want a Scotland which is socially progressive and liberal. And for young people, independence isn’t about flags, but it’s about the kind of country that they imagine independent Scotland could be – a progressive country – and Humza very deliberately tapped into that in the course of the election campaign and made it very clear what his views were and championed that.”

He applauded Yousaf for renewing promise to challenge the UK government over its use of a Section 35 order to block Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) bill. Yousaf confirmed he’d mount a legal challenge in the moments after his election was confirmed.

Nicolson continued: “He has promised that he will defend us collectively against Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak if they try to attack Scottish democracy and trans rights.”

The veteran MP added it’s “intrinsically wrong” for the Tory government in London to attack Scottish democracy by “attempting to undo any bit of legislation that has passed by the Holyrood parliament”.

Scottish National Party (SNP) leadership candidates Ash Regan (L) and Kate Forbes (R) applaud as Humza Yousaf (C) wins the SNP Leadership election vote
Scottish National Party (SNP) leadership candidates Ash Regan (L) and Kate Forbes (R) applaud as Humza Yousaf (C) wins the SNP Leadership election vote. (Getty)

Erin Lux, co-convenor of the SNP’s LGBTQ+ group Out for Independence, told PinkNews that Yousaf had “by far the most in-depth, well-informed responses across a wide swathe of LGBT issues”.

Lux said the group is looking forward to working with Yousaf to further the SNP’s “progressive views”, advance LGBTQ+ rights, fight Westminster’s Section 35 order blocking Scottish gender reform and get a “real comprehensive ban on conversion therapy through”.

With Yousaf winning by only a narrow margin – with 52 per cent of the second count to Kate Forbes’ 48 per cent – Lux wants to see the SNP come together.

Lux believes the SNP can “come together and move forward”, but said there was “lots of work to do” after seeing how many people voted for anti-LGBTQ+ candidates (Forbes had been heavily criticised for her views on same-sex marriage, abortion and trans rights).

“Forty-eight per cent voted for candidates who were not going to be very good for LGBT rights or for women, so there’s work to do,” Lux said. “But we’ve carried the day and we’re looking forward to working with Humza.”

“He’s been clear that not challenging the Section 35 order is just rolling over and letting Westminster give you a kicking,” Lux added “We’re confident he’ll give it 100 per cent.”

Jayne Ozanne, director of the Ozanne Foundation and LGBTQ+ rights campaigner, tweeted she was “relieved” to hear of Yousaf’s SNP leadership victory. 

“A great day for Scots – particularly LGBT+ Scots!” Ozanne wrote. “Congrats to Humza Yousaf!!”

Others shared their joy that they could “breathe a sigh of relief”.

Kate Forbes faced immense criticism throughout the SNP leadership race for her views on same-sex marriage, trans rights reform and her concerning record on LGBTQ+ and abortion rights

During the race, she suggested that undergoing conversion therapy can be a “choice”. She also commented that she wouldn’t have voted in favour of same-sex marriage if she had been an MSP at the time. 

Forbes also said that she believes a trans woman is a “biological male who identifies as a woman”.

Humza Yousaf promises to fight for LGBTQ+ rights

Humza Yousaf previously told PinkNews that he would “cement” LGBTQ+ rights in the heart of an independent Scotland’s constitution if he was elected. 

“If I’m elected … you can be absolutely sure that you’ll have a leader who will not just protect your rights, will not just defend your rights, but will absolutely advance them in a progressively, socially just Scotland,” he said.

“I would hope that will be as an independent nation sooner rather than later. But even within the confines of devolution, I will protect those rights as best I possibly can.”

He also promised to bring forward legislation to Holyrood to ensure conversion therapy is banned if the Conservative government in London continued to delay.