Giving a speech to a major political party conference would be daunting at the best of times, doubly so when your husband happens to be the party leader and delegates are twitchy after a by-election loss in the first electoral test of his tenure.

For Nadia El-Nakla that wasn't even the half of it. A councillor in Dundee, when she took the floor it was in the knowledge that her mother and father were in perhaps mortal peril in the besieged enclave of Gaza.

Speaking to delegates, Ms El-Nakla told how she felt like her "heart was turning to stone" and described the "unimaginable horror" the world was watching.

Her heartfelt, impassioned address was for many - outside of the hall at least - their first real exposure to the licensed psychotherapist other than as 'Humza Yousaf's wife', and the reaction was largely positive.

But Ms El-Nakla is far more than just Scotland's first lady.

Read More: Yousaf calls for 'honest broker' to help end Middle East violence

Early life

Born in Dundee to a Scottish mother and a Palestinian father, Ms El-Nakla attended school in Monifieth, Angus.

She took an early interest in politics, raising money to help Kosovans fleeing war in the Balkans and later attending the University of Dundee. She graduated with a 2:1 in political science & government in 2004, later working as a development manager for Amina, a Muslim women's resource centre.

In 2007 she would marry Fariad Umar, an IT expert with a Masters in Computing from the University of Dundee.

They would divorce after having one child together, Maya, amid a scandal which rocked the SNP.

'If I had a gun...'

In 2015, Mr Umar became suspicious over the number of text messages his wife was exchanging with her best friend, Karen.

Having checked the number on her phone against the one he had for Karen, he discovered it was different and when he called a man answered.

Ms El-Nakla "played down" the relationship in Mr Umar's words but, suspicions aroused, he used his IT skills to recover deleted messages.

The ethics of using data recovery software to retrieve messages from a partner's phone are sketchy at best, but Mr Umar discovered more than the confirmation that his wife was having an affair.

The number assigned to 'Karen' was in fact Craig Melville, an SNP councillor in Dundee and an aide to MP Stewart Hosie and the messages contained a lot more than evidence of an affair.

In the days following the terror attack on the Bataclan in Paris in 2015, Mr Melville sent a series of racist texts to Ms El-Nakla.

"If I had a gun I would shoot a Muslim", he said in one message before adding in another: "It’s not personal, I just hate your religion and I will do all in my life to defeat your filth".

The texts continued over the weekend, with one lamenting a "loopy left wing society who is more interested in claiming benefits and being ignorant to the threat of your horrible disease" and "horrible murdering Islamic c****".

Mr Fariad handed the messages over to police and Mr Melville was ultimately found guilty of making threatening, derogatory and abusive remarks regarding Muslims. He was fined £1,000.

Mrs Yousaf

The Herald: Humza Yousaf and his wife Nadia El-Nakla are concerned for the welfare of her parents (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Yousaf and Ms El-Nakla got married in 2019, and the couple have one child, Amal, together with the First Minister acting as step-father to her child from a previous marriage.

In 2020 the couple spoke movingly about how hard it had been to conceive, with Ms El-Nakla disclosing that she had suffered four miscarriages.

Speaking of losing their first child in 2017 Mr Yousaf said: "It’s the most helpless I’ve ever felt, I think, ever in my life, to be honest.

"I know this is really outdated sounding, but  you want to be really strong for your, in my case for my wife, and I wanted to make sure that I knew what she was going to go through.

"Nadia was having clots of blood coming away and passing out as I was trying to help her to get from the bed to the bathroom.

"You know, trying to get her to get a little bit of water to keep hydrating. Nobody gives you a manual for this kind of stuff.

"Nobody, nobody, talks to you about this stuff. Nobody tells you about everything that miscarriage can entail, not just the physical elements, but the emotional elements."

The couple live in Broughty Ferry near Dundee, and made headlines when trying to get Amal into a local nursery.

Read More: Humza Yousaf SNP conference speech in full as makes pledges on NHS, arts and more

Mr Yousaf alleged that they had been denied a place despite people with "white-sounding names" being told there were spaces available. A complaint was upheld by inspectors, which found the nursery in question "did not promote fairness, equality and respect" in its admission processes, with Ms El-Nakla dropping a lawsuit. The nursery, Little Scholars, said the inspectors had found administrative issues and there "never was any discrimination".

Last year she ran as an SNP candidate for Dundee City Council in west end ward 3. She was elected, and currently serves as the council's equalities spokesperson.

Ms El-Nakla is also a qualified counsellor, having obtained a Masters degree from Abertay University in 2021.

She has experience dealing with addiction, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders, bereavement, suicidal ideation, with a special expertise in addiction issues having worked with an addiction service for two years.


Ms El-Nakla has been a consistent advocate for Palestine both before and after entering public life.

She founded the group Tayside for Justice in Palestine in 2012 and her brother, Mohammed, a doctor, lives in the Gaza strip with his wife Huas and their three children.

The day after Mr Yousaf was officially nominated as First Minister she attended Holyrood wearing a traditional thobe.

The Herald:

The embroidered ankle-length robe is worn throughout the Levant but has gained popularity as a visible if subtle symbol of Palestinian solidarity.

American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib wore one for her swearing-in ceremony, calling it an "unapologetic" display of her culture.

However, her connection to her father's homeland really came into the public conscience for the worst of reasons.

Ms El-Nakla's parents were visiting an ill relative in the Gaza strip when the militant group Hamas, which controls the enclave, launched an incursion into Israel.

More than 1,000 Israelis were killed, many of them civilians, with the Israelis cutting off electricity and water in response, as well as launching a barrage of air strikes.

Ms El-Nakla told the SNP conference: "Instead of sending spy planes, the UK should be sending supplies. We are not watching a natural disaster. This can be stopped.

"Yesterday my cousin was out walking with friends, returned home and got a call asking if he was okay. He said he was fine, but the three friends he was just walking with had just been killed."

Just an hour before her husband's key note speech she revealed that her young cousins had shrapnel injuries after a near miss with an Israeli missile.

There are many in Scotland who will disagree with Ms El-Nakla's views on Scottish independence, but surely none who were left unimpressed as she put on a smile and introduced Mr Yousaf for the biggest speech of his life.