Humza Yousaf believes it would be a “really important seminal moment for the country” if he is elected as Scotland’s next first minister – making him the first Muslim and minority ethnic politician to hold the role.

The Health Secretary revealed that his mother has questioned whether he really wants the job, but he said the fact that he is even a contender for the position “speaks volumes” about Scotland.

Mr Yousaf is vying with Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and Ash Regan to become the next first minister of Scotland following Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation.

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But Mr Yousaf failed to leap praise on Ms Regan during an interview with Channel 4 News.

He was asked whether there was “an array of talent within the party”.

He added: “I think Kate is very talented.”

Pressed over whether he would say the same about Ms Regan, Mr Yousaf said: “ Ash has got her strengths” adding that there were “very good points when she served under me as community safety minister”.

He added: “I would be the best leader of the party.

“I think Kate is very able, I think she’s very competent too.”

Mr Yousaf has acknowledged the significance of him becoming first minister if he is successful in the leadership contest.

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He told Times Radio: “I think it could be a really important seminal moment for the country potentially, a real demonstration of how far we have come as a country.

“The fact that I am even in the running, somebody who is the grandson of an immigrant who came in the 1960s to this country is even in the running, in contention for the top job in Scotland, I think speaks volumes.

“The fact that by and large questions aren’t about my race but they are about our policies is something to be celebrated.”

He was pressed on his decision to run for the “incredibly tough job” – with Ms Sturgeon having commented on the “brutal” nature of the position when she announced she was stepping down last week.

Asked why anyone would want the job, Mr Yousaf said: “My mum did ask me the same question, virtually.”

He said he is running because he believes he has “got something to give to the job”, adding that he had first discussed the move at length with his family.

Mr Yousaf said: “You don’t have much time in these kind of situations to think too long about the decision, because if you are going to go for it you have got to launch a campaign, get a campaign team ready relatively quickly.

“But one of the main things I did was make sure I sat down with all of my family, my wife, my kids – my three-year-old didn’t understand it, my 13-year-old certainly did – my parents, my sisters, and we had that long hard discussion.”

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Mr Yousaf is regarded as the continuity candidate in continuing the direction of travel for the Scottish Government under Ms Sturgeon’s leadership.

After more than 10 years in the Scottish Government, Mr Yousaf insisted he has the experience to take on the top position.

With his role as Health Secretary, and having previously served as both justice secretary and transport minister, Mr Yousaf said he has had “some of the toughest jobs in Government”, adding that “you need that experience if you are going for the top job in Government”.

He said: “I would hope I have got a track record of unifying people, reaching across the divide, bringing people together.

“The recent fact that Scotland was the only part of the UK that didn’t have NHS strikes shows my ability to bring people together to compromise and find solutions.”

He again made clear his determination to challenge the UK Government over its decision to block new laws reforming the gender recognition process in Scotland.

Legislation passed by Holyrood in December set out to simplify and speed up the process, but this was vetoed by Westminster, with Conservative ministers using an order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act to prevent the Gender Recognition Reform Bill from gaining royal assent.

Mr Yousaf said: “I think we have to challenge the Section 35 in court, I see no other way.”

This, he said, is based on the principle of “do we cave in the first time the UK Government wields the red pen” – with Section 35 never having previously been used by Westminster to block legislation from Holyrood.

Mr Yousaf insisted: “I think it is incumbent on us to challenge that in the strongest way possible, not just because of the belief and support we have for the GRR Bill as a Parliament, but actually for Scottish devolution itself.”