Humza Yousaf has emerged as the First Minister of Scotland after pledging to uphold her socially progressive policy agenda.
Yousaf emerged as the frontrunner on Monday to replace Nicola Sturgeon who resigned on February 15 after more than eight years in the role.
Yousaf’s hopes of succeeding Sturgeon were boosted after Angus Robertson, the culture secretary who was made the bookmakers’ favourite when Sturgeon said she would quit, announced on Monday morning that he would not be running.
The most experienced of the potential contenders and a former leader of the Scottish National party at Westminster, Robertson said in a tweeted statement that as the father of two young children, “the time is not right [to] take on such a huge commitment”.
That is expected to make the contest a two-candidate race between Yousaf, 37, and Kate Forbes, 32, the socially conservative Scottish finance secretary, who confirmed on Twitter that she was standing to succeed Sturgeon.
The Scottish health secretary said on Monday that he backed Sturgeon’s stances on same-sex marriage, abortion clinic buffer zones, banning conversion practices and gender recognition changes, stating he would “absolutely” challenge the UK government’s block on Holyrood’s gender recognition bill.
He said the UK government’s decision to block the bill, which recent polls suggest is supported by a majority of Scottish voters, was in reality “an assault, an attack” on Holyrood’s autonomy.
He said: “Is somebody really going to suggest to me we should lay down and allow them to trample over the will of the Scottish parliament [on] a bill that had support from every single political party?”