‘YOU’RE only going to get 20 votes”.

These words confused Bashir Maan in 1970 when an opposing election agent in his ward election said them to him. He later discovered that there were only 20 registered voters of Asian heritage in the ward he was looking to represent. Bashir Maan went on to win the election for Labour in a historic first, and thus began the history of minority ethnic representation in Scottish politics.

Over 50 years later, as a nation, we witness the historic election of Humza Yousaf as Scotland’s first ethnic minority First Minister and Muslim leader of any western democracy.

I have been asked repeatedly this last week how I feel, and I thought it would have been a simple question to answer. Personally, it has felt less like sparks of emotion but something akin to acceptance, warmth, and a deep emotional wave the way you feel when you embrace someone you love. It has been confusing attempting to unpick how I feel, but in a way, that’s been so powerful and feels appropriate for how important this election has been.

The National: Bashir Maan and Labour Party colleagues celebrating his election victory, May 1970Bashir Maan and Labour Party colleagues celebrating his election victory, May 1970

Humza Yousaf spoke in his first speech as First Minister about the seismic nature of his election and how in their wildest dreams, those who came to this country only two generations ago could not have imagined where we would be today. Truly we have reached a milestone in Scotland’s relationship with race equality, however, there is so much more to go in Scotland’s understanding and acceptance of minority ethnic communities.

There is much positivity in Scotland for refugee groups, minority ethnic groups with longstanding ties with the nation and welcoming New Scots wherever in the world they come from. However, I practically winced when one of the party leaders during his remarks congratulating the new First Minister said that “this sends a strong, positive message to everyone in this country there are no barriers to what they can achieve”. This is a seemingly innocent platitude but it is a damaging sentiment that has been readily accepted across political divides.

The National: First Minister Humza Yousaf’s first approval rating is -7% according to pollsters Redfield-Wilton (Andy Buchanan/PA)

There are barriers, quite significant barriers, to minority ethnic communities to what they are able to achieve. As an example, to date, there have still been no Black/African or Chinese elected representatives to either Westminster or Holyrood. And the achievement of Humza Yousaf’s election as First Minister should be celebrated – that he was able to accomplish this historic election in spite of these barriers – and not that they do not exist.

The First Minister’s election marks a major milestone in Scotland’s relationship with race equality. I have high aspirations that as a nation our depth of understanding for minority ethnic communities grows during his tenure.

There are severe issues with poverty, education, employment, welfare, housing and a whole host of barriers to minority ethnic communities receiving equity of opportunity across society. It is where we go from here, and the commitment we have to equality, diversity and inclusion that will define the legacy of this historic moment.

The National: Bashir Maan, the first Muslim councillor in the UKBashir Maan, the first Muslim councillor in the UK

The First Minister during his first speech spoke about how he felt he had to prove his commitment to his nation in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It is these words and the sentiment of the words said to Bashir Maan that have been ringing through my mind this past week. That feeling Humza felt and those words uttered to Bashir Maan were said to make him doubt his acceptance as a Scot in his community. Feeling as if you are not fully, truly Scottish or that you do not wholly belong in your home is an abominable feeling.

With the election of Humza Yousaf as First Minister, I hope no Scot is ever made to feel that way ever again.