The Joseph Era in Scottish Politics

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After the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, which is part of the United Kingdom, debates over who will be the new leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the new Prime Minister have flared up. Sturgeon, who took the post of Prime Minister from Alex Salmond, who resigned after the majority voted no in Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014, is a long-time influential figure in the country’s politics. However, Sturgeon has decided to resign from her post after the controversial gender law. Announcing this decision on Twitter, Sturgeon said in a statement, “Even though many people think that the time has not come, my heart and mind are telling me that the time has come. I will show this courage” and announced that he was leaving his job.[1]

After this decision, the agenda in the country’s politics changed very quickly and the eyes were turned to who would be the candidate. Three candidates emerged for the position of Chairman of the Party and Prime Minister. These; Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Hamza Joseph. The most striking name among the candidates was Joseph, known for his Muslim and immigrant identity.

Known for his conservative views among the candidates, Forbes assumed the role of Minister of Economy in the cabinet and performed important duties in the difficult times the country was going through. He has come to the fore frequently as the Minister of Economy at a time when the country was busy with the most challenging issues of recent times, such as the Covid-19 epidemic, the Russia-Ukraine War, rising energy prices and the cost of living. Forbes, who did not hesitate to openly state that he had a disagreement with the Party Chairman and Prime Minister Sturgeon on social issues, also expressed his opposition to the new gender reform introduced by the party.[2]

Saying that he did not participate in the vote on the reform in the parliament for various reasons, Forbes wrote an open letter with 15 deputies from the SNP, announcing his opposition to this bill. At the same time, Forbes voted against the law that paved the way for same-sex marriage in 2014. Expressing that he is also against abortion, Forbes emphasized that these ideas come from the Independent Scottish Church, of which he is a member, and that he will defend these principles. Forbes, on the other hand, considers that the idea of independence, which occupies a large place in the country’s agenda, is a medium-term goal and that it is of greater importance to combat current problems of the country.[3]

Regan served as Minister of Security from 2018 until his resignation in 2022. Regan, who is part of the “Women for Freedom” movement, is one of the 15 lawmakers who, like Forbes, wrote an open letter to the controversial bill. Known as a strong supporter of independence, Regan states that more negotiations with the UK Government are needed at this point. Regan had to resign after Sturgeon’s law allowed individuals who had reached the age of 16 to self-identify without any medical documentation.

The last candidate is Joseph, who received 52.1% of the votes and became both the Party Chairman and the new Prime Minister. Joseph, who won the race where his closest rival Forbes received 47.9% of the vote, previously served as Minister of Justice and Minister of Transport in the cabinet. Born to a Pakistani father and a Kenyan mother, Joseph most recently served as the Minister of Health in the country. It is known that his family came to Scotland in 1960; During your university education, you served as the President of the Muslim Students Union. Joseph, who was Sturgeon’s assistant in the past, was also supported by Sturgeon in this race.

With the influence of Joseph ‘s identity, it is clear that he will blow a new wind in Scottish politics. He stated that he shared the same ideas with Sturgeon, despite being a Muslim on social issues. In this context, Joseph said, “Islam is my religion, but I do not base it on state affairs.” He painted a secular Muslim portrait.[4]

The newly elected leader of the ruling party in Scotland will be approved by the forward parliament. Later, this name will be presented to the king in a symbolic way. Thus, the UK, which has a Prime Minister of Indian origin, will also witness a Muslim Scottish Prime Minister of immigrant origin.[5] This situation in Scottish democracy also reveals the cosmopolitan nature of society.

However, the main purpose of the SNP is independence. This idea, which flared up as a result of the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) with Brexit, will be one of the main topics on Joseph ‘s agenda. As it is known, Scotland voted to stay in the EU, unlike the UK, in the Brexit vote.

As a result, Sturgeon’s basic perspective will be maintained in Scotland with the period of Joseph. In this sense, in line with the nature of the SNP, independent demands will continue to exist. Therefore, the developments reflecting the continuity in Scottish politics will continue during the Joseph period.

[1] Glenn Campbell, “Nicola Sturgeon Says Time is Right to Resign as Scotland’s First Minister”, BBC,, (Date of Accession: 15.02.2023)

[2] Jennifer Scott, “The SNP Leadership Race’s Contenders to Replace Nicola Sturgeon: Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf”, SKY,, (Date of Accession: 13.03.2023)

[3] Dominic Penna, “Who Could Replace Nicola Sturgeon and Where They Stand on Key Issues”, Telegraph,, (Date of Accession: 27.03.2023)

[4] Yunus Emre Erdölen, “İskoçya’nın ilk Müslüman başbakanı Hamza Yusuf: Bağımsızlık Yakın, Elhamdülillah”, Serbestiyet,, Date of Accession: 27.03.2023)

[5] David Torrance, “How is a First Minister of Scotland Appointed?”, Commons Library,, (Date of Accession: 27.03.2023)

Ahmet İlhan KAPLAN
Ahmet İlhan KAPLAN, Ankara Sosyal Bilimler Üniversitesi Siyaset Bilimi ve Kamu Yönetimi Bölümünde son sınıf öğrencisidir. AB genişlemesi, Batı Avrupa, Türkiye-AB ilişkileri, Almanya ve Batı Balkanlar siyasetine ilgi duyan ve bu alanlarda araştırma yapan Kaplan, ANKASAM'ın çalışmalarına katkıda bulunmaktadır. Kaplan, iyi seviyede İngilizce ve Almanca bilmektedir.