Humza Yousaf is to be Scotland’s first ethnic minority first minister after being elected leader of the SNP.

The 37-year-old Health Secretary will also be the youngest ever holder of the office.

The self-styled “continuity candidate” narrowly beat his main rival, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, after failing to win outright on first preferences votes. 

Read more: Profile: Who is Humza Yousaf, Scotland's new First Minister?

He was carried over the line by transfer votes after third placed Ash Regan was eliminated.

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The result was announced at the BT Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh after the ballot of SNP members closed at noon, with a turnout of 70%.

For first preferences in the single transferrable vote system, Mr Yousaf took 24,336 (48%), Ms Forbes took 20,559 (40%) and Ms Regan took 5,599 (11%) of the vote.

When second preferences were distributed in the second stage, Mr Yousaf took 26,032 (52%) and Ms Forbes took 23,890 (48%).

He paid tribute to Ms Forbes and Ms Regan, adding: "It's felt we've seen each other more than our respective families.

"You both have put in an incredible shift and I know that collectively we will work hard as part of Team SNP."

The Glasgow Pollok MSP is expected to start organising his new cabinet later today.

Read more: Scottish First Minister: Humza Yousaf wins SNP contest

Holyrood is due to vote tomorrow on whether to confirm him as First Minister, however it is essentially a formality.

Speaking after the announcement, Mr Yousaf said he felt like the "luckiest man in the world".

"To serve my country as First Minister will be the greatest privilege and honour of my life, should parliament choose to elect me as Scotland's next first minister tomorrow," he said. 

HeraldScotland: Ash Regan, Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes at Murrayfield Stadium shortly after the announcement. Photo PA.Ash Regan, Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes at Murrayfield Stadium shortly after the announcement. Photo PA. (Image: PA)

"There will be no empty promises or easy soundbites", Mr Yousaf added in his statement as he vowed to make the cost-of-living crisis and revitalising the NHS his immediate priorities.

"I will move quickly to develop plans to extend childcare, to improve rural housing, support small businesses and boost innovation," he added. 

"I will bring forward reform of the criminal justice system, I will work with local government to empower our local authorities."

Nicola Sturgeon, the outgoing Scottish First Minister, congratulated Humza Yousaf on his victory in the race to succeed her.

Ms Sturgeon tweeted: "I pay tribute to all 3 candidates for @theSNP leadership for rising to the challenge.

"Most of all I congratulate @HumzaYousaf and wish him every success.

"He will be an outstanding leader & First Minister and I could not be prouder to have him succeed me."

Mr Yousaf’s victory means the SNP has avoided the immediate crisis which a win for Ms Forbes could have triggered because of her socially conservative views.

The Scottish Greens, the SNP’s partners in government, had threatened to walk out if Ms Forbes was elected, given her opposition to gender reforms and same sex marriage.

HeraldScotland: Humza Yousaf speaking at Murrayfield Stadium after winning SNP contest. Photo PA.Humza Yousaf speaking at Murrayfield Stadium after winning SNP contest. Photo PA. (Image: PA)

Some SNP cabinet ministers had said they might feel unable to serve in a Forbes cabinet, while SNP deputy Westminster leader Mhairi Black warned the party could split.

However, Mr Yousaf could present the party with a longer term problem, as he has said he wants to continue the policies of Nicola Sturgeon, many of which have fallen flat.

He was the only one of the three candidates in the leadership race to champion Holyrood’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which has been vetoed by the UK Government over fears it would clash with UK-wide equality law.

With the mid-April deadline to launch a judicial review fast approaching, Mr Yousaf now faces a key early decision on whether to challenge that veto in court.

He also faces a tricky choice on whether to offer Ms Forbes a place in his cabinet.

But the most obvious option - putting her into health when he leaves it - would put her close to ethically divisive issues such as assisted dying, conversion therapy and abortion clinic buffer zones, where her faith could become an issue.

That could alienate the Scottish Greens as well as many of Mr Yosauf’s other colleagues. 

Mr Yousaf had been backed by the bulk of the SNP’s parliamentarians, including deputy first minister John Swinney and other members of the cabinet.

He was widely seen as the preferred choice of Nicola Sturgeon, whose top special adviser Liz Lloyd worked on his campaign, and reportedly tried to dissuade Ms Forbes from standing, a claim Ms Lloyd denies.

Mr Yousaf was also the private choice of Unionist MSPs, who see him as glib and ill-disciplined, and closely associated with a series of failures in government, notably on the NHS.

His opponents will now make hay with Ms Forbes’s damning assessment of him in a TV hustings that he failed not just at health, but in the transport and justice portfolios as well. 

After a confirmatory vote on Tuesday at Holyrood, Mr Yousaf will be sworn in as first minister at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, before making his FMQs debut on Thursday.

He will take charge around a week before his 38th birthday. 

Labour’s Jack McConnell was 41 when he took on the role in late 2001.

Besides being the youngest first minister, Mr Yousaf is the first from a new generation of SNP politicians.

All the previous first ministers were '99ers, elected to  Holyrood at the outset of devolution in 1999.

Mr Yousaf was elected in 2011 and has been a minister since 2012.

Ms Sturgeon, announced she was resigning after more than eight years in the post in mid-February, triggering an extraordinary period of upheaval for the SNP.

Her referendum plans stymied by Westminster and the UK Supreme Court, she admitted she had become divisive and a potential obstacle to the party achieving independence.

Her exit led to feuding between the party’s politicians, a bruising series of hustings in which Ms Forbes and Mr Yousaf in particular traded blows, and allegations of dirty tricks.

The party’s ruling body, its national executive committee, repeatedly mishandled the race, trying to ban the media from hustings and withholding membership numbers.

In both cases it was forced into a humiliating climbdown after pressure from the candidates.

The release of the membership numbers showed SNP HQ had misled the media about a 30,000 drop since the end of 2021 - a decline the party had vehemently denied.

It led to the resignation of the SNP’s respected media chief at Holyrood, Murray Foote, followed by Ms Sturgeon’s husband, the SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.

SNP president Michael Russell, who was reluctantly drafted in to steady the ship, admitted the party was in a “tremendous mess”.

Mr Yousaf's campaign manager, Neil Gray told The Herald: "I think we've won because we ran a positive campaign that has engaged our members, that has maintained our progressive values based on social justice and social progress.

"And because Humza has grown through this campaign, and I think, for a lot of people, for many people, most people, has been seen as a first minister in waiting. 

"And I've been incredibly proud to be part of that campaign and to be as close as I have over these last few weeks to watch him on that journey.

"And you know, I'll be incredibly proud to sit with him and vote for him as our next first minister."

Ms Forbes said: "I think that SNP members had a real choice between candidates. I was clear and upfront about what I offered, and they have obviously chosen a more continuity-based candidate.

“That's the nature of democracy. I still stand by my campaign and my campaign messaging.”

Asked if the membership had taken their cue from Mr Swinney and other big names backing Mr Yousaf and gone with the flow, Ms Forbes said: “I think SNP members are a lot more intelligent than just supporting who they're told to support. It means that they wanted that candidate. 

“I was plunged into the whole contest, having been singing nursery rhymes a matter of days beforehand.

"So it was quite a shock to the system. 

“I think it was inevitable in a short contest that there would be some challenging moments, and you live and learn.”

Asked if she might take a second run at the job if there was vacancy, she said: “No. No.

“I have used this contest to make my case. 

“We’ll see what happens at that point [a vacancy].

"But I think it's very difficult to predict where I'll be and where everyone else will be. And by that point, we may have a bigger pool of people that are going for it.

"But I think this, for me, is probably the one opportunity.”