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The Guardian view on the SNP’s new leader: he understands Brexit won’t help Scotland | Editorial

Humza Yousaf argues a union with England frustrates Scotland’s hopes, but one with Europe energises them

Humza Yousaf’s election as leader of the Scottish Nationalist party is a turning point for his nation – but it remains to be seen whether his nation will turn for him. Mr Yousaf has devoted his working life to the goal of Scottish independence, but he takes power just as the cause’s standing has dipped in the opinion polls. That probably explained why, in his acceptance speech, Mr Yousaf emphasised what he would do to help Scots with the cost of living crisis and how the SNP would support public services. In backing him, party members decided to stick with the progressive agenda of his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon.

The Scottish independence movement can be seen as a reaction to the dysfunctional and unresponsive nature of British politics. It was the SNP’s opposition to the invasion of Iraq that drew Mr Yousaf into its orbit. Scottish politics has been reshaped in the wake of the financial crash of 2008 and the decade of austerity that followed it. The pro-union parties – Labour, Liberal, Conservative – had two-thirds of all seats in the first two parliaments at Holyrood; since 2011, they have been in a minority. At the last general election, the SNP won 48 seats, reducing the once dominant Labour party to just one Scottish MP. Mr Yousaf will be the first Muslim to head a country in western Europe. Steered by a person of colour, the SNP can make the case that it champions a pro-immigrant civic nationalism more eloquently than the Tories, who, despite being led by Rishi Sunak, stir ethnic nativism when it electorally suits them.

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