Scottish First Minister dismisses allegations of bias in Gaza aid initiative

Humza Yousaf defends £250,000 donation amid controversy and labels accusations as 'completely untrue'

Humza Yousaf has dismissed as 'ludicrous' suggestions of a conflict of interest over his decision to give £250,000 to an aid agency in Gaza. PA
Powered by automated translation

Scotland's First Minister has described suggestions that a conflict of interest arose as the result of his decision to give £250,000 to an aid agency in Gaza as “ludicrous” and “completely untrue”.

Humza Yousaf had announced the donation on behalf of the Scottish government to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as he met officials from the organisation on November 2 last year, while his parents-in-law were among millions under siege in Gaza.

At the time, Mr Yousaf’s parents-in-law, Elizabeth El-Nakla and her husband, Maged, were trapped in Gaza. The couple had travelled to the city in October to visit Maged El-Nakla’s mother, who had a stroke in March but has now recovered.

Mr Yousaf's parents-in-law were evacuated from the enclave via the Rafah crossing on November 3 last year.

On Saturday, The Telegraph newspaper reported Mr Yousaf was being accused of overriding officials' recommendations to give Unicef, the UN's agency for children, between £100,000 and £200,000.

According to the paper, Mr Yousaf told officials that, since he was about to meet senior UNRWA delegates in Edinburgh, “we should just announce an extra £250k to them”.

A representative for the First Minister said “UNRWA had no role in the situation regarding the First Minister's extended family and any suggestion of a conflict of interest in this matter would be completely untrue, and simply a regurgitation of ludicrous far-right conspiracy theories to be found online”.

“The record shows the First Minister's actions were consistent with his obligations towards openness and honesty in the Scottish Ministerial Code.”

“The decision not to restrict funding to water supplies was based on advice from officials, following discussions with UNRWA, Unicef and the British Red Cross, who all stressed the importance of flexibility in providing humanitarian support according to changing needs on the ground.”

'Some serious explaining to do'

However, Conservative MSP, Stephen Kerr, who sits on the Scottish parliament's standards committee, said Mr Yousaf had “some serious explaining to do” and “may very well have broken the (Scottish ministerial) code”.

UNRWA has since been the focus of a controversy surrounding Israeli accusations that some of its employees were involved in the October 7 attacks by Hamas that triggered the Gaza conflict.

Several countries, including the UK, have paused their support for the relief agency while an investigation is undertaken, although on Saturday Sweden said it would resume aid payments, following a similar move by Canada the previous day.

UNRWA has dismissed several members of staff and launched a review, but also urged donors to reconsider the pause in funding as it seeks to provide humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

Updated: March 09, 2024, 3:07 PM