The SNP’s Westminster deputy leader has endorsed Humza Yousaf in the race to be Scotland’s next First Minister.
Mhairi Black said Humza Yousaf was the only candidate who would take the “fight directly to Westminster” over his decision to veto the controversial gender recognition reforms passed by Holyrood.
Mr Yousaf, Scotland’s current Health Secretary, is facing off against Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and former Community Safety Minister Ash Regan in the race to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and Scottish First Minister .
Both Ms Forbes and Ms Regan have been critical of gender reform legislation passed by Holyrood, with Ms Regan resigning from the Scottish Government to vote against it.
The Scottish Greens highlighted this as a key issue in maintaining their power-sharing arrangement with the SNP in the Scottish Parliament.
And Ms Black said Mr Yosuaf’s “concrete commitment” to challenging the use of Section 35 powers to block Holyrood legislation was important in maintaining the pro-independence majority in Holyrood, adding that this would be a “critical factor in how we scale up the drive for independence.”
Speaking about Mr Yosuaf, Ms Black said: “He is the only candidate willing to take the fight directly to Westminster and uphold the democratic right of our Scottish Parliament to legislate without interference from Westminster.”
The Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP’s endorsement of Mr Yousaf comes after she said how she had been “incredibly hurt” by Ms Forbes’ comments on gay marriage.
Ms Forbes, a member of the Free Church of Scotland, had revealed at the start of her leadership campaign that she would not have voted for the legislation introducing this if she had been in Holyrood at the time.
Ms Black, who married her wife last year, previously said: “Kate has not only endangered many activists and members, she has alienated sections of the population before she even started.”
Speaking on Sunday, the SNP MP said: “Having heard the early stages of the leadership campaign, it is already clear to me that Humza is the only candidate who can move our party and country forward.
“I share your vision of an independent, progressive and fairer Scotland.”
He added that Yousaf “understands the challenges the party faces, particularly internally, and is not afraid to meet those challenges.”
In addition to understanding the “need for internal reform”, he said Yousaf’s plans to “listen, unite and refocus our members to increase support for independence is exactly what I want to hear.”
He continued: “Humza has the blueprint to achieve economic and social progress in our country by tackling the Conservative cost of living crisis that is hurting working families across Scotland.
“Humza has the skills, experience and resilience to lead and I look forward to helping him carry that message to our members in the coming weeks,” he added.
Yousaf said he was “delighted” to have Black’s endorsement, describing her as a “highly respected and popular figure in the SNP and throughout Scotland”.
He said: “Like me, Mhairi has a history of standing up for equality and social progress. He makes me happy that he shares my vision to build the team in the Government and in the whole party, to lead us towards independence.
“Mhairi understands, as I do, that the SNP must earn our support, rather than just wait for it.
“As Leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland, I will look to work with the likes of Mhairi to inspire our members and the people of Scotland to stand behind our vision of a progressive and inclusive independent Scotland.”