LONDON: Humza Yousaf was sworn in as Scotland’s new leader on Wednesday in a ceremony that blended formal tradition with his Pakistani heritage, before announcing his first cabinet in a move that risked deepening divisions within his governing party.
Yousaf, the first Muslim to lead a democratic Western European nation, appeared before Scotland’s highest court, the Court of Session, in a black shalwar kameez.
At the start of the ceremony, his wife, along with his children and parents, shed tears.
Yousaf, who took an oath of allegiance to King Charles, has previously stated that if he succeeds in ending Scotland’s three-century-long political union with England, he intends to replace the monarchy with an elected head of state.
The 37-year-old then announced his new cabinet of six women and three men, most of whom were close allies of former Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon, who resigned last month after dominating Scottish politics for more than a decade.
However, the new lineup may cause discord because it excludes Yousaf’s leadership rivals or their allies, who claim they were only offered positions that amounted to demotions.
Shona Robison, a close friend of Sturgeon’s, will be finance minister as well as deputy first minister, with Angus Robertson continuing to be in charge of constitutional issues and external affairs.
Yousaf said in announcing his new team that his cabinet, which has a majority of women for the first time in Scottish history, should look as much like the voters they represent as possible.
“As we make the case for Scottish independence, we will continue to govern well and show the people of Scotland the benefits of making decisions about their lives here in Scotland,” he said.
The new leader faces numerous challenges, including uniting his party, charting a new path to independence from the United Kingdom, and addressing Scotland’s healthcare and education problems.
Yousaf narrowly won a leadership election on Monday after a bruising campaign that followed Sturgeon’s surprise resignation last month, which had dominated Scottish politics for nearly a decade.
Internal squabbles over the future of the pro-independence Scottish National Party and Scotland resurfaced after Yousaf’s main opponent, Kate Forbes, resigned from the government.
According to a source familiar with the talks, Forbes turned down an offer to become the minister for rural affairs and islands, a step down from her previous role as finance minister.
Former health secretary Alex Neil, who supported Forbes, called the proposed position “an insult and not a genuine effort to unite” the party.
Yousaf was expected to offer a more senior position to his leadership rival, whom he defeated by only about 2,000 votes.
During his campaign for president, Yousaf stated that he would abandon Sturgeon’s “inner circle” leadership style in favor of a “big tent” approach.
Forbes, who questioned Yousaf’s record in government during the leadership campaign, reminded followers of the closeness of the race on Tuesday, saying Yousaf had her “complete support.”
Ivan McKee, the business minister who backed Forbes in the leadership race, also said he left the government after being offered a job he considered a demotion.