New SNP leader Humza Yousa promises legal challenge against Tories’ Section 35 order

Humza Yousaf in font of a Stronger for Scotland sign

Immediately after winning the SNP leadership, Humza Yousaf confirmed that he would challenge the UK government’s blockage of Scotland’s landmark gender reform law.

The new Scottish National Party leader said that he sees Westminster’s use of Section 35 of the Scotland Act to block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) bill (GRR) as a “power grab”.

Answering questions after his win was announced, Humza Yousaf said: “They do not have any right to use that excessive justified power given that the majority of Hollywood, of course, backed the GRR bill.

“My first principle, my starting principle, is to challenge that Section 35 order,” he said.

Yousaf’s predecessor Nicola Sturgeon had promised to challenge the UK government over its use of Section 35. The Tories used the legislation for the first time in history to block Scotland’s GRR bill, which would have made it simpler for trans people in Scotland to acquire a new birth certificate.

Despite the Scottish parliament voting for the bill, the Tories blocked it, citing alleged concerns about its impact on the UK Equality Act. Experts and SNP politicians agree the bill would not interfere with equality law.

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Humza Yousaf was named winner of the SNP leadership election on Monday (27 March) after receiving 52.1 per cent of the second preference vote. It makes him the first ethnic minority leader of the political party.  

Yousaf beat out rivals Kate Forbes and Ash Regan following a divisive campaign which saw LGBTQ+ rights – including self-ID, conversion therapy and same-sex marriage – take centre stage. 

Humza Yousaf in front of an SNP banner
The SNP leadership election winner Humza Yousaf. (PinkNews)

In his acceptance speech, the MSP for Glasgow Pollok said it was “hard for me to find the words to describe just how honoured I am to be entrusted by our membership of the SNP to be the party’s next leader”.

“To serve my country as first minister will be the greatest privilege and honour of my life,” he said. 

Yousaf, who currently serves as cabinet secretary for health and social care, told the people of Scotland that he will be a first minister for all Scots, regardless of their political viewpoint or if they voted for him.

He said he will work to re-earn the trust of the Scottish people in the SNP. 

“I will do that by treating you, the people of Scotland with respect.

“There will be no empty promises, no easy soundbites when the issues in front of us are difficult and complex, because government is not easy and I won’t pretend it is,” he told the room of onlooking media and supporters.

Erin Lux, co-convenor of the SNP’s LGBTQ+ group Out for Independence spoke in a personal capacity to PinkNews about her happiness at the result.

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

Humza Yousaf: Independence will be won ‘on the doorsteps’

Humza Yousaf went on to say that his immediate concerns are to protect Scots from the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis, “recover and reform” the NHS and other public services, support the economy and to improve the life chances of Scots across the country. 

He added he will “develop plans to extend childcare, improve rural housing, support small business, and boost innovation”, bring forward “reforms of the criminal justice system”, and work with local government to “empower our local authorities”. 

Kate Forbes in front of an SNP banner
Kate Forbes lost to Humza Yousaf. (PinkNews)

Addressing the issue of independence, Yousaf said he believes this generation will deliver independence for Scotland and it will be won “on the doorsteps”.

“As first minister I will not shy away from the tough challenges, those that require the difficult decisions, but where there is that challenge, I will use it to find opportunity,” he stated. 

The new leader rounded off his speech by thanking his grandparents, who made the journey from Punjab to Scotland over 60 years ago. 

He said: “As immigrants to this country, who knew barely a word of English, they could not have imagined their grandson would one day be on the cusp of being the next first minister of Scotland.”

Humza Yousaf will become first minister once confirmed by Holyrood on Tuesday (28 March).

Responding to Yousaf’s plans to challenge the Section 35 order, a UK Government spokesperson said: “The Secretary of State for Scotland made an order under section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, preventing the Scottish Parliament’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from proceeding to Royal Assent.

“This was done after thorough and careful consideration of all the relevant advice and the policy implications. This legislation would have an adverse effect on the operation of Great Britain-wide equalities protections and other reserved matters.”