New SNP leader Humza Yousaf has said he will ask for a Section 30 order “right away” just hours after he took over in the top job.
Mr Yousaf, who has been Scottish Health Secretary since 2021, succeeds Nicola Sturgeon in that role, and will now be formally elected by MSPs as Scotland’s sixth first minister on Tuesday.
He recorded a narrow victory over rival Kate Forbes once second preference votes were taken into account when Ash Regan was eliminated from the contest after the first round of voting.
Such powers could be granted under Section 30 of the Scotland Act, allowing the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum on independence – widely seen by Mr Yousaf’s wing of the party as the “gold standard” for achieving separation.
But shortly after his comment, the UK Government moved to quash it.
“I think you know our well-established position,” the Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters.
“That’s what the Government will be focused on.
“More broadly, you’ve heard the Levelling Up Secretary congratulate Humza Yousaf on his election as leader of the Scottish National Party and, of course, the Prime Minister looks forward to working with him in the future.”
The official said he was not aware of any formal request having been made by Mr Yousaf.
In a speech after his victory was announced, he pledged to “dedicate every waking moment” to serving the people of Scotland.
He will be the first person from an ethnic minority background to be first minister and the first Muslim to lead the country – as well as the youngest ever first minister.
The 37-year old recalled how his grandparents had moved from the Punjab to Scotland more than six decades ago.
He said: “As immigrants to this country, who knew barely a word of English, they could not have imagined in their wildest dreams that their grandson would one day be on the cusp of being the next first minister of Scotland.”
The new leader continued: “We should all take pride in the fact that today we have sent a clear message, that your colour of skin, or your faith, is not a barrier to leading the country we all call home.
“From the Punjab to our Parliament, this is a journey over generations that reminds us that we should be celebrating and always celebrate the migrants who contribute so much to our country.”
Mr Yousaf pledged to work to unite the SNP after a “bruising” leadership contest sparked by Ms Sturgeon’s sudden resignation.
Mr Yousaf failed to win a majority in the first round of voting, but won 52.1% of the votes after second preference votes from Ms Regan, who came third, were redistributed.
Ms Forbes came second, with 47.9% of votes, when second preferences were included.
Mr Yousaf said serving as first minister would be “the greatest privilege and honour of my life”, telling people across the country: “I will be a First Minister for all of Scotland.”
The new leader, who will be elected as first minister on Tuesday after a vote of MSPs, stressed he was “determined” to secure independence for Scotland, saying: “Joining the SNP, for me, was an act of hope and also statement of intent.”
Mr Yousaf pledged to “kickstart” a grassroots campaign that would “ensure our drive for independence is in fifth gear”.
The new SNP leader added: “The people of Scotland need independence now more than ever before, and we will be the generation that delivers independence for Scotland.”
Ms Sturgeon paid tribute to all the candidates for “rising to the challenge” during the leadership contest, adding: “Most of all I congratulate Humza Yousaf and wish him every success.
“He will be an outstanding leader and first minister and I could not be prouder to have him succeed me.”
It is understood the new leader’s first meeting was held at BT Murrayfield Stadium just minutes after the vote was announced with Ms Forbes and Ms Regan, with a view to reuniting the party after what proved to be a sometimes bitter leadership election.
Ms Forbes offered her “warmest congratulations” to her rival, adding she was confident the party will now unite behind its new leader.
She said: “I know we will continue to work together, to make the lives of all of Scotland’s people better on the next stage of our journey to independence.
“Whatever the robust disagreements or frank exchanges of the last few weeks, I am confident we will unite behind Humza as our new party leader in the shared and common objective of independence.”
Speaking to journalists after the result, fellow candidate Ms Regan offered her support to new leader, saying she wished Mr Yousaf “every success”, and added that she accepted the result.
Mr Yousaf’s election as SNP leader has been hailed as “fantastic” in representing a “multicultural and diverse society”.
The Tell Mama group, which works on tackling anti-Muslim hatred, tweeted: “Fantastic to see politicians in leading roles representing our multicultural and diverse society in the UK and Scotland. Congratulations @HumzaYousaf elected leader of the SNP”.