Humza Yousaf hits out at David Cameron after Erdogan rebuke

Scottish First Minister insists 'international engagement' is vital to economy after meeting Turkey's president

First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet at Cop28 in Dubai. EPA
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Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf has hit back at the UK Foreign Secretary's threat to revoke British government support for the country's overseas activities, saying this could affect Scotland's economy adversely.

Humza Yousaf met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai in December without a UK government official present.

In response, Mr Cameron said in a letter on Sunday there would be “no further FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] facilitation of meetings or logistical support” for the Scottish Government if there are any “further breaches” of protocol.

Mr Yousaf said he was shocked.

"First of all, let's be clear – the approach from Lord Cameron is really petty and frankly misguided," he said on Monday.

"Scotland is the part of the UK, outside of London, that has attracted the most foreign direct investment for eight years in a row. That happens because the Scottish Government's international engagement is valued [and] has impact.

"To threaten to curtail that, to stop that international engagement – the international engagement from the elected Scottish Government from an unelected lord – I think is misguided and petty."

The First Minister said the meeting in question had been rescheduled at the last minute by Mr Erdogan's team but added he would have had "no problem" with a UK government official – or even Mr Cameron himself – attending.

"It was rearranged at short notice by the president of Turkey's team, the [FCDO] official chose not to stay with the Scottish delegation the whole day and because of that they ended up missing the meeting.

"Nothing was discussed that hadn't been discussed at other meetings, such as the climate crisis, and in this particular meeting the issue of the Israel-Gaza conflict."

The First Minister said an FCDO official had been at the "vast majority" of meetings he had during the climate summit.

Revoking support from the Scottish Government abroad would negatively affect the country's economy, Mr Yousaf said.

"Most importantly, it will affect Scottish business, affect the Scottish economy," he said.

"Our exports are worth over £6 billion [$47.55 billion] in whisky alone over the last year, showing how important exports, how important international engagement, is to Scotland's economy," he said.

"For Lord Cameron to say he's basically going to stop Scotland's international engagement because of one meeting, where one FCDO official wasn't able to attend – because, of course, at events like Cop, diaries can change quite last minute – is really petty, really misguided."

"I suggest to Lord Cameron that next time, if he has an issue like that, he should just pick up the phone. I'm sure it can be resolved."

“It is wholly unacceptable for the Scottish Government to promote foreign policies which are at odds with those of the United Kingdom government.” Alister Jack, Scottish secretary said.

Updated: December 11, 2023, 7:49 PM