|Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care|
|Assumed office |
20 May 2021
|First Minister||Nicola Sturgeon|
|Preceded by||Jeane Freeman|
|Cabinet Secretary for Justice|
26 June 2018 – 20 May 2021
|First Minister||Nicola Sturgeon|
|Preceded by||Michael Matheson|
|Succeeded by||Keith Brown|
Humza Haroon Yousaf
7 April 1985
|Political party||Scottish National Party|
(m. 2010; div. 2017)
|Alma mater||University of Glasgow|
Humza Haroon Yousaf (born 7 April 1985) is a Scottish politician serving as Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care since 2021. He is the first non-white and first Muslim cabinet minister in the Scottish Government. A member of the Scottish National Party (SNP), he has been the Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Glasgow Pollok since 2016, having previously represented Glasgow region from 2011 to 2016.
Born and raised in Glasgow, Yousaf attended the University of Glasgow, earning a MA in politics. Before becoming an elected official, he worked as parliamentary assistant for many prominent MSPs including then First Minister Alex Salmond and then Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. In 2011, he became the youngest MSP elected to the Scottish Parliament, at age 26. Yousaf served in numerous junior ministerial roles including: Minister for External Affairs and International Development from 2012 to 2014, Minister for Europe and International Development from 2014 to 2016, and Minister for Transport and the Islands from 2016 to 2018.
In Nicola Sturgeon's 2018 cabinet reshuffle, Yousaf was appointed to the Scottish Cabinet as Cabinet Secretary for Justice. As Justice Secretary, he introduced the Hate Crime Bill, which caused controversy from opposition parties. In 2021, he succeeded Jeane Freeman as Health Secretary and since has been leading the Scottish Government's COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Early years and family background
Humza Haroon Yousaf was born on 7 April 1985 in Glasgow. His father, Muzaffar, was born in Mian Channu, Pakistan, and emigrated to Glasgow with his family in the 1960s, eventually working as an accountant. His mother, Shaaista Bhutta, was born in Kenya to a family of South Asian descent that later emigrated to Scotland.
From an early age, Yousaf was involved in community work, ranging from youth organisations to charity fundraising. He was the volunteer media spokesperson for the charity Islamic Relief, worked for community radio for twelve years and on a project which provided food packages to homeless people and asylum seekers in Glasgow.
Yousaf was privately educated at Hutchesons' Grammar School, an independent school in Glasgow, where his Modern Studies lessons inspired him to become involved in politics. He studied Politics at the University of Glasgow, graduating with an MA in 2007. Whilst at university, Yousaf was President of the Glasgow University Muslim Students Association as well as a prominent figure involved in student politics in the Students' representative council.
Early political involvement
Yousaf worked as a Parliamentary assistant for Bashir Ahmad, from Ahmad's election as Scotland's first Muslim MSP in 2007 until Ahmad's death two years later. Ahmad was a personal influence. Yousaf then worked as Parliamentary assistant for a few other MSPs including Anne McLaughlin, Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond who was then First Minister. In 2008, whilst working as an aide, Yousaf took part in the International Visitor Leadership Program, a professional exchange run by the US State Department. He was awarded the “Future Force of Politics” at the Young Scottish Minority Ethnic Awards in 2009, which was presented to him in Glasgow City Chambers.
Election to Holyrood
In May 2011, Yousaf was elected to the Scottish Parliament as an additional member for the Glasgow region. At just 26 years of age, he was the youngest MSP to be elected to the Scottish Parliament. When being sworn in, he took his oath in English then Urdu reflecting his Scottish-Pakistani identity; he was dressed in a traditional sherwani decorated with a Partick Thistle tartan touch and a plaid draped over his shoulder. Yousaf was appointed to the Justice and Public Audit Committees. On 25 May 2011 he was appointed as a Parliamentary Liaison Officer to the Office of the First Minister, remaining in this post until 4 September 2012.
On 5 September 2012, Yousaf became the Minister for External Affairs and International Development after Alex Salmond had undertaken his first major cabinet reshuffle of the parliamentary session. This junior ministerial appointment saw him working under the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs. He is the first Scottish Asian and Muslim to be appointed as a Minister to the Scottish Government.
When Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister in November 2014, she kept Yousaf as a junior minister, although the name of the position he held was changed to the Minister for Europe and International Development. On 18 May 2016, he was moved to the position of Minister for Transport and the Islands in a reshuffle.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice (2018–2021)
On 26 June 2018, Sturgeon announced her intention to perform a cabinet reshuffle of her second government. She promoted Yousaf to the Scottish Cabinet to serve as Cabinet Secretary for Justice, succeeding Michael Matheson.
Hate Crime Bill
One of his flagship policies was the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill which he promised would streamline existing legislation as well as add additional protections to persecuted minorities while maintaining rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The bill has been criticised by the Catholic Church, the National Secular Society as well as writers, and in September 2020 it was amended to remove prosecution for cases of unintendedly stirring up hate, which could theoretically include libraries stocking contentious books. In October 2020, Yousaf said that the exception to the Public Order Act 1986 which allows people to use otherwise illegal language in their own homes should be abolished.
In June 2020, following the murder of George Floyd in the USA, Yousaf gave a speech to the Scottish Parliament as part of a debate to show solidarity with anti-racism. In the speech, Yousaf listed 15 positions of authority in Scotland held by white people, in order to illustrate that there were few non-white people in positions of power. Video clips of the speech were widely circulated online by conservative commentators, who argued that this was to be expected in a country where (according to the 2011 census) 96% of the population was white, and mocked Yousaf's style of delivery, in particular his emphasis of the word "white". As a result, Yousaf was the target of over 6,000 posts on social media.
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care (2021–present)
In the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, Yousaf was re-elected as the MSP for the Glasgow Pollok constituency. The SNP fell two seats short of an overall majority in the election, however, remained the largest party, with more than double the seats of the Scottish Conservatives. Sturgeon announced her intention to form a third administration and appointed Yousaf as the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, succeeding Jeane Freeman, who stepped down at the election.
Yousaf entered office amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In June he said that ten children up to the age of nine had been admitted to Scottish hospitals in the previous week "because of Covid". Professor Steve Turner, Scotland officer for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, contradicted him and said that children’s wards were “not seeing a rise in cases with Covid”. He added that the children in question had been hospitalised for other reasons. Yousaf clarified his statement and apologised for "any undue alarm".
In July, the World Health Organisation concluded that six out of Europe's ten virus hotspots were in Scotland. Tayside topped the list with 1,002 cases per 100,000 head of population over the previous fortnight. The Scottish Government was accused of being ‘missing in action’ after it emerged that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Yousaf were all on holiday. Yousaf said he had promised to take his stepdaughter to Harry Potter World, tweeting that: "Most important job I have is being a good father, step-father & husband to my wife and kids. In the last seven months they’ve had virtually no time from me."
NHS waiting times
In September 2021, the average waiting time for an ambulance in Scotland soared to six hours and Yousaf urged the public to "think twice" before they called 999. Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane criticised the remark as “reckless messaging [that] could put lives at risk” and instead urged people to call an ambulance if they thought they needed one. Following reports of elderly Scots dying whilst waiting for an ambulance to arrive, Yousaf asked the Ministry of Defence for help and soldiers from the British Army were deployed to drive ambulances. Audit Scotland concluded that 500 people died in Scotland in 2021 due to delayed access to emergency treatment.
In November 2016, Yousaf was fined £300 and had six penalty points added to his driving licence, after being caught by police for driving a friend's car without being insured to drive it. Yousaf accepted full responsibility saying: "I totally accept the decision. I paid the fine and told my insurers about the points. This was an honest mistake, and the result of my personal circumstances during my separation."
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