The SNP’s deputy Westminster leader has endorsed Humza Yousaf in the race to be Scotland’s next First Minister.
Mhairi Black said Humza Yousaf was the only candidate that would take the “fight directly to Westminster” over its decision to veto controversial gender recognition reforms passed by Holyrood.
Mr Yousaf, the current Scottish Health Secretary, is up against Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and former community safety minister Ash Regan in the contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and Scottish First Minister.
Both Ms Forbes and Ms Regan have been critical of the gender reform legislation passed by Holyrood – with Ms Regan quitting her post in the Scottish Government to vote against it.
The Scottish Greens having highlighted this as a key issue for maintaining their powersharing agreement with the SNP in the Scottish Parliament.
And Ms Black said the “concrete commitment” from Mr Yosuaf to challenge the use of Section 35 powers to block Holyrood legislation was important for keeping the pro-independence majority at Holyrood, adding that this would be a “critical factor in how we ramp up the campaign for independence.”
Speaking about Mr Yousaf, Ms Black said: “He is the only candidate willing to take the fight directly to Westminster and stand up for our Scottish Parliament’s democratic right to legislate free from Westminster interference.”
The Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP’s endorsement of Mr Yousaf comes after she told how she had been “incredibly hurt” by Ms Forbes’ comments on gay marriage.
Ms Forbes, a Free Church of Scotland member, had revealed at the start of her leadership campaign that she would not have voted for the legislation which introduced this had she been at Holyrood at the time.
Ms Black, who married her wife last year, said earlier: “Kate hasn’t just jeopardised a lot of activists and members, she has alienated swathes of the population before she’s even started.”
Speaking on Sunday, the SNP MP said: “Having listened to the early stages of the leadership campaign it is already clear to me that Humza is the only candidate that can take our party and our country forward.
“His vision of a progressive and fairer independent Scotland is one which I share.”
She added that Mr Yousaf “understands the challenges the party faces, particularly internally, and is not afraid to rise to those challenges”.
As well as understanding the “need for internal reform”, she said Mr Yousaf’s plans to “listen to, unite, and refocus our membership in driving up support for independence are exactly what I want to hear”.
She continued: “Humza has the plan to make economic and social progress in our country – tackling the Tory cost of living crisis head on which is hurting working families the length and breadth of Scotland.
“Humza has the skills, experience and resilience needed to lead and I look forward to helping him take that message to our membership in the coming weeks,” she added.
Mr Yousaf said he was “thrilled” to have Ms Black’s backing, describing her as a “popular and highly respected figure in the SNP and across Scotland”.
He said: “Like me, Mhairi has a record of standing up for equality and social progress. I am glad she shares my vision for building the team in Government, and across the party, to take us on to independence.
“Mhairi understands, like me, that the SNP must earn our support, rather than simply expect it.
“As SNP leader and Scotland’s First Minister, I will be looking to work with people like Mhairi to inspire our membership and the people of Scotland to get behind our vision for a progressive and inclusive independent Scotland.”
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country