Humza Yousaf’s final address to the Scottish Parliament as First Minister

Presiding Officer, I am grateful for the opportunity to make a final statement from the front benches.  

 It gives me the opportunity to put on records some thanks to several people who have supported me throughout the years on the incredible journey I have been blessed to be on over the last 12 years as a Minister in the Government. 

I will say no more about my wonderful family, partly because there simply are not the words to convey my love for them for putting up with me over the years, but also because I did promise my 15 year old I wouldn’t embarrass her again by crying on national television. 

My thanks to you Presiding Officer, and those who preceded you for the fairness that you have shown during my time on the frontbenches. I, of course, intend on repaying that fairness by being a model backbencher who will be on their best behaviour – at least for the first few weeks.

Many of us will be in a reflective mood as we mark 25 years of devolution this week. I am certain that I am not the only one who re-read Donald Dewar’s historic and remarkable opening speech when this Parliament was reconvened.  

There are many lines that could be quoted, but one in particular stood out to me this week: 

“This is about more than our politics and our laws. This is about who we are, how we carry ourselves.” 

 And in that vein, let me offer thanks to every single colleague across the political divide for the kindnesses you have shown me over the years. 

We often lament the toxic nature of our political debate, and it is true, there is an entrenched tribalism that feels difficult to free ourselves from. However, I will remember, far more fondly the kindness and generosity of colleagues over the years. 

I got to witness that kindness when I made my first ever speech to this Chamber on 2nd June 2011. After making my contribution, a certain Tavish Scott shortly followed with his own contribution thereafter and addressed me: 

“If that is the standard of your first speech, I cannot wait for the next one, the next one and the next one.” 

I suspect Tavish Scott didn’t quite expect me drone on for as long as I have, however, that one compliment, that one moment of kindness from a senior MSP in this Parliament made me feel ten feet tall. It cost Tavish nothing, yet settled this very nervous 26 year old new entrant to the Chamber, and gave me a confidence to keep trying to better myself. 

So what I am really trying to say PO is that this is all Tavish Scott’s fault. 

I jest of course.  

I have had so many instances of such kindness over the years from my own SNP colleagues, and those across the political spectrum.  

They have come at some of the most difficult times in my life, for example when my in-laws were trapped in Gaza, and also at times of joy for example when Amal was born five years ago. 

The purpose of mentioning this is to remind myself, and others, that kindness costs us nothing, being good to one another, costs us nothing, being compassionate to one another costs us nothing, and yet can, quite literally, make a whole world of difference.  

So for all of the kindness shown to me by colleagues over the years – thank you. 

Presiding Officer, let me also take this moment to thank the incredible Civil Service for their unwavering dedication to our country. I cannot possibly thank every member of my Private Office over the years, or all of the Civil Servants I have worked closely with, but I am so grateful to each and every one of them for their support over the years. 

There are sections of our media, politics and society who enjoy denigrating civil servants, who see them as an easy target. Such lazy commentary is so far from the truth.  

Our civil servants work tirelessly for their country, not seeking the limelight but quietly, and diligently getting on with the job of serving Scotland, often going above and beyond the call of duty. For that, they have my eternal thanks and admiration. 

Presiding Officer, I have had the greatest privilege of my life serving my country in Government for almost 12 years. As Minister for External Affairs and International Development, Minister for Transport, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Cabinet Secretary for Health & Social Care, and most recently of course as First Minister.  

So my thanks must go to the people who gave me that opportunity by electing me to this place. The good people of Glasgow in 2011 and since 2016 the fine people of Glasgow Pollok who continue to put their trust in me to stand up for them and to serve them.  

And to my predecessors as First Minister, for giving this boy opportunities he could not have imagined in his wildest dreams. I am grateful for the trust you put in me over the years. 

You see, a young Humza Yousaf could never have imagined he would be able to lead his country.  

I was six years old when I was first told to “Go Home”, and I am afraid since then it has been a regular occurrence, almost daily if you look at my social media feeds.  

And I won’t lie, it is the racial slur that probably hurts me the most. Very simply because I have no other home than this country, I never have and never will. My heart will forever belong to Scotland. 

So, to have had the opportunity to defy the far-right, the racists, the bigots who told me to “go home”, and be in a position to serve my home, to contribute to public life in my home and to have had the opportunity to lead my home, has been the most tremendous honour that I didn’t think was reserved for people who looked like me. 

I hope that from my example other little boys and girls who look or sound different know that it is our differences which make us unique, that should be celebrated as part of a modern and diverse Scotland, and that in no way should every hold you back from achieving your dreams. 

Lastly, to my successor, my dear friend John Swinney. John is one of the most empathetic, kind and compassionate people I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years. Such qualities are crucial in life, and absolutely necessary as First Minister. 

I remember Nicola Sturgeon saying to me that as FM you get to make someone’s day, every single day in office. I am quite possibly making some people’s day by also exiting office Presiding Officer.  

However, I can testify that Nicola Sturgeon was absolutely right. It can be through the smallest acts of kindness such as stopping for a selfie with someone, or through transformative policy like the SCP, the privilege of serving the people of Scotland through this Office never gets tiring.  

I know John will do his family proud, our Party proud and he will do our nation proud as he dedicates his life to the service of Scotland, the country we are all proud to call home, and that we all love so dearly. 

To conclude, Presiding Officer, I will take some time to refamiliarize myself with the backbenches as I intend on being an active contributor to this Parliament, as my constituents would expect me to be.

I will continue to champion those issues close to my heart, ensuring I give a voice to the voiceless, be they at home or abroad. 

And in that vein, I cannot let today’s remarks go by without pleading, one last time from the frontbenches, for the international community to stop any further massacre of the innocent people of Gaza.  

A full-scale invasion of Rafah, home to 1.4m people, 600,000 children, will only result in the slaughter of more innocent civilians in what is likely to be the clearest violation of international law to date.  

A clear signal must be sent to Israel that to defy the international community in this way will come with significant consequence and sanction.  

Everything possible must be done to demand an immediate ceasefire, a release of all the hostages and an end to arm sales to Israel. We must be on the right side of history, and that must mean standing with innocent men, women and children. To do otherwise would be unforgivable.  

Presiding Officer, my time as First Minister is now over. However, I am absolutely certain that for the rest of my life, every Thursday at one minute to twelve in the afternoon, my palms will begin to sweat and that knot in my stomach will tighten.  

That comes from a place of deep respect for this Parliament, this Chamber and to those in opposition. That respect for you all will continue to be there. I hope we can live up to the hopes of the founding fathers and mothers of devolution and work together in the interest of the common good, the interests of the commonweal, and do so with kindness. 

Thank you Presiding Officer. It has been an honour and a privilege.