PERHAPS the most high-profile black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) figure in Scotland, Hamza Yousaf is serving as Justice Secretary since 2018. The 36-year old’s meteoric rise in politics has seen him adding a number of historic firsts to his name.
The Scottish National Party politician was first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2011 from the Glasgow regional list, and a year later, he was appointed Minister for External Affairs and International Development at the age of 27. The feat made him the first non-white and first Muslim member of the Scottish Government, and also the youngest minister ever appointed to the government. He would do an encore of sorts on his appointment as Justice Secretary in June 2018, becoming Scotland’s first ethnic minority and first Muslim cabinet minister and, aged 33, he was also the youngest person to become a cabinet minister. In between he also served as Minister for Transport and the Islands from 2016 until 2018.
Yousaf, a Glaswegian of Pakistani descent, is known for finely blending the traditions of ‘bhangra and bagpipes’. When he returned to parliament in 2016, winning from Glasgow Pollok, he has turned heads delivering his oath of allegiance in Urdu, alongside English, while wearing a kilt. In 2011 also, he used both languages during the ceremony, but was wearing a traditional Pakistani sherwani with a tartan plaid.
As Justice Secretary, his flagship initiative has been the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill which has been approved by the Scottish Parliament in March 2021.
The milestone legislation offers greater protection for victims and communities targeted by hate crime, particularly by applying a new offence of ‘stirring up of hatred’ to additional characteristics such as age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics.
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