Victory by 52% to 48% is not the
ringing endorsement Humza Yousaf would have wanted from the party membership, but a win is a win and it was accepted by all three candidates.
It is a massive personal moment for Mr Yousaf, but very quickly he will no longer be able to bask in the glory because he will
be immersed in the detail and challenges that come with this big responsibility.
Under Alex Salmond and then
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP was a fairly united party and able to keep everybody on pretty
much the same page, but underlying tensions have bubbled to the surface during this campaign.
Mr Yousaf has called for the party to come together and those signals in the days ahead will be important – will he try to bring in Kate Forbes and Ash Regan?
But some arguments will continue because they were pretty fundamental – the direction
to take on independence, whether to challenge the UK government on its decision to block the gender reform legislation passed by Holyrood.
We now know Mr Yousaf’s position is pretty secure, with the Greens – who share power – deciding they want to continue
that agreement and backing him as first minister.
So he will easily see off the challenge
from other parties in tomorrow’s vote, but it is straight
down to work because there are enormous challenges facing the Scottish government –
trying to bring down huge NHS waiting lists, levels of poverty and drug-related deaths.
He now also carries the torch for the SNP’s ultimate goal of
independence. It is clear he will continue to pursue that goal, as well as use
Holyrood’s devolved powers to tackle some of the big challenges of the day, including the cost of living crisis.
There is always a tension in that. His rivals say every time
he talks about independence, he is prolonging division in the country, whereas Humza Yousaf himself
says he wants to govern for all the people of Scotland.