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Scotland leader Humza Yousaf resigns in latest setback for independence



Scotland leader Humza Yousaf resigns in latest setback for independence

LONDON — The leader of Scotland, First Minister Humza Yousaf, abruptly resigned Monday, roiling Scottish politics before general elections later this year.

Yousaf also served as head of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which has been battered by financial scandal.

Announcing his resignation from the podium at Bute House, his official residence, Yousaf said he felt his party’s long-held ambition for Scottish independence was “frustratingly close.” But in reality, after 17 years in power the SNP’s dream seems as far away as ever.

Yousaf was facing a threatening series of no-confidence votes in the Scottish Parliament this week after he broke the SNP’s power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Green Party.

Without the Greens, the SNP is left with a minority government — and Yousaf appears to be the first victim of that new reality.

The SNP and the Greens had previously served together under a deal struck by Yousaf’s predecessor, which bolstered the Greens’ agenda of rapidly decarbonizing Scotland to reach “net zero” emissions of greenhouse gases.

The trouble for the SNP was that Scotland still has a fossil fuel economy based on its extraction of oil and gas in the North Sea.

The Greens also wanted to press ahead on bolstering rent controls and banning so-called conversion therapy, while the SNP wanted to “pause” access to puberty blockers for those under 18 years of age.

Yousaf said he would continue to serve as first minister while his party elects his replacement. It has 28 days to do so.

With the announcement, the Scottish National Party finds itself at a new low.

The long-serving former first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, stepped down in February 2023, suggesting she was tired of the spotlight and missed getting a coffee with a friend or going for a peaceful walk.

“In my head and in my heart, I know that time is now,” Sturgeon said.

Last week, Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, was charged with embezzlement of funds from the Scottish National Party, which may have included the purchase of a $120,000 recreational vehicle found parked at his mother’s home.

Murrell had served as chief executive of the SNP for 22 years. Sturgeon herself was questioned by police detectives but released with no charges filed. The couple’s home was searched.

In his resignation remarks, Yousaf said that as a boy born to Pakistani immigrants in Glasgow, “people who looked like me were not in positions of power.”

Today, “the evidence is quite to the contrary,” Yousaf said, pointing to himself, as well as the first minister of Wales, Vaughan Gething, who was born in Zambia, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose parents of Indian descent immigrated to Britain from East Africa in the 1960s.

After stepping down, Yousaf will continue to serve from the backbenches of Scotland’s Parliament.

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