Hamza Yousaf has been elected as the new leader of the Scottish National Party, replacing Nicola Sturgeon as the First Minister of Scotland. At just 37 years old, he is the youngest person and the first Muslim to lead Scotland. His victory marks a significant moment in Scottish history and is particularly poignant for Yousaf and his family, as his father is a Pakistani immigrant.
Yousaf’s grandfather, who arrived in Scotland in the 1960s and spoke little English, used to work in a sewing factory. Now, Yousaf will lead Scotland in its struggle for independence, with Indian-origin Prime Minister Rishi Sunak representing the UK in negotiations.
It’s not just Yousaf making waves in the UK political scene, either. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is also the son of Pakistani immigrants. These three individuals, all with roots in the British Raj, are currently the most powerful people in the UK.
The rise of these leaders from South Asian backgrounds is a far cry from Winston Churchill’s description of Indians as “Rogues and Rascals” in 1947. Churchill argued against Indian independence, claiming that “all Indian leaders will be of low caliber and Men of straw.” However, Churchill’s predictions proved to be very wrong, as India has since become the fifth-largest economy in the world.
It’s interesting to note that the UK, which once colonized these nations, is now relying on leaders from these former colonies to fill its own political void. It’s an irony not lost on social media, which has been buzzing with excitement about Yousaf’s victory.
However, Yousaf’s job as the Scottish First Minister will not be an easy one. He has promised to kick-start a grassroots, civic-led movement to push for Scottish independence, but his task is made more difficult by the fact that only four in every ten people in Scotland currently support independence. Additionally, the UK Supreme Court has passed an order preventing the Scottish government from holding an independence referendum, making Yousaf’s job even harder.
Yousaf is well aware of the challenges ahead, as the struggle for independence is a long and arduous process. As he moves forward as the leader of Scotland, he will need to deliver more than just symbolic gestures, such as wearing a kilt and a gold-embroidered sherwani during his oath-taking ceremony. With the British government’s proclivity for power, Yousaf’s task will be far from easy, but his election marks a significant step forward for Scotland and for the representation of South Asians in UK politics.