In his latest Herald column, Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson gives reaction to the election of Humza Yousaf as Scotland's First Minister.

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Last Wednesday, Humza Yousaf MSP was sworn in as Scotland’s sixth First Minister at Edinburgh’s Court of Session.

His elevation to Scotland’s highest office is an historic one, as he became Scotland’s youngest First Minister and also the first Muslim leader of a political party in the UK.

The First Minister noted this himself, saying: “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.”

I agree entirely with the sentiment, just as I did when Rishi Sunak was chosen by Tory MPs to be the UK’s first Hindu Prime Minister, while Ireland has an openly gay, mixed-race Prime Minister of Hindu and Catholic parentage.

Much was made of the apparent division and discord within the SNP during the short campaign to replace Nicola Sturgeon. I have to say, it’s laughably overblown.

The SNP has a larger membership than all of Scotland’s other political parties combined. With no leadership contest since 2004, it’s fairly natural that there should be a robust discussion about Scotland’s future and that’s what we saw.

Over the last seven years we’ve had five UK Tory Prime Ministers and since devolution began in 1999, a dozen or so Labour Leaders in Scotland. Given the rate of leadership turnover in opposition parties, I’m sure they are much more familiar and comfortable with such contests. Perhaps ousting and replacing leaders is one area where they really do have an edge on the SNP.

Following the swearing-in process, the First Minister lost little time in appointing his new cabinet and ministerial team. The cabinet is a blend of old and new faces, with half its members under 40 and 60 per cent being women.

The team also has ‘real world’ experience of their remits, with Jenny Gilruth, a former teacher now in education, and Angela Constance, previously a prison social worker, in justice, for example.

These appointments come at a particularly challenging time. Many Scottish households face real hardship as the cost-of-living crisis bites. I was therefore pleased when the First Minister took immediate action and trebled the Fuel Insecurity Fund to £30 million to support people who simply cannot afford to heat their homes and are at risk of self-rationing or self-disconnecting.

This is an early marker that the First Minister is focussed on helping Scotland’s people and communities through these challenges, using Holyrood’s limited powers.

Of course, Scotland’s opportunity to make a real difference is severely constrained, with powers mostly under Tory Westminster control. The SNP backs independence, not only to deal with current difficulties as a nation, but also to build a more resilient, dynamic economy and society.

Governing ourselves is fundamental to making Scotland a more prosperous, fairer and equal country.

The First Minister and his new team are already working hard and relishing their new roles. They will continue to develop and implement the day-to-day policies necessary to take Scotland forward.