Lorna Slater’s View of the new First Minister

Friday March 31st 2023


Lorna Slater, Scottish Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lothian MSP and Scottish Greens co-leader writes an extra column for Midlothian View about the new First Minister.

Humza Yousaf’s election represents a number of ‘firsts’ for Scotland.

He is our first minority-ethnic leader, our first Muslim leader, and our youngest First Minister to date – meaning that like his predecessors’, his victory is a landmark moment in Scottish history.

After giving his acceptance speech at Murrayfield, and after congratulating his team, and celebrating with his friends and family, the new First Minister took time to speak to me and my Green colleague Patrick Harvie to discuss and reaffirm our shared values and his positive vision for the future.

There is no doubt that Nicola Sturgeon will be a very tough act to follow. She is one of the most significant and formidable politicians of the devolution era. She was a bold and determined leader who marked her term in office with empathy, compassion and integrity.

These same attributes were shown in abundance throughout the new First Minister’s leadership campaign, during which he emphasised the progressive values that have characterised the agreement between our parties.

The last few weeks have been an important journey for the new First Minister and his family, but also for Scotland.

Just as Nicola Sturgeon’s term as First Minister was an inspiration to women and girls across our country, Humza Yousaf’s victory is undoubtedly a landmark moment for new Scots and people from minority ethnic communities across Scotland and beyond.

One of the most moving moments of his acceptance speech came when he took a moment to thank his grandparents and to share their story. He told of their travels and commended them for their bravery while reflecting on the amazement they would feel if they could see him now, as he prepares to take the highest office in Scotland.

My Scottish Green colleagues and I are looking forward to working with him to build on the many achievements of the last 18 months.

I am proud of what we have already delivered. An emergency rent freeze; free bus travel for young people; record funding for tackling the nature and climate emergencies; doubling the Scottish Child Payment; an active travel investment programme that rivals the best of our European neighbours; an Energy Strategy that recognises we need to leave oil and gas in the ground.

These are all important steps, but there is far more to do. With a dual climate and cost of living crisis, we need solutions that live up to the scale of the challenges we face.

Throughout his election campaign, Humza Yousaf stressed his support for climate action and social justice and has made clear that he will continue to challenge Westminster’s unjustified attacks on Scotland’s democracy: whether it is Downing Street’s determination to resist a fair and democratic referendum on Scottish independence or its recent attack on Gender Recognition Reform.

This enthusiasm extends right across our Party. In the hours after his election, the Scottish Greens Party Council met and unanimously voted for our MSP group to back his election as First Minister, as well as to continue our positive, constructive and collaborative role in government.

MSPs sit in a horseshoe shape for a reason. The design of Holyrood’s debating chamber is meant to be a rejection of the adversarial, opposition for opposition sake style of Westminster politics. Like so many parliaments across Europe, we sit together in a semicircle, and are meant to seek to build consensus across the chamber.

This is how our politics should always be done, with collaboration and mutual respect. That is how we have approached our role in government and, although it has only been a short period of time, the people of Scotland and our environment are already better off for it.

I was very proud to join my Scottish Green colleagues in voting for Humza Yousaf to be Scotland’s new First Minister. I am truly looking forward to working with him over the months and years ahead in building a fairer, greener and more equal Scotland for everyone.

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