David Cameron letter ‘petty and misguided’, claims Humza Yousaf

The foreign secretary said a meeting between Humza Yousaf and the Turkish president breached protocol because a UK Government official was not there.

Scotland’s First Minister has said a letter from the foreign secretary which threatened to revoke UK Government support for the country’s overseas activities was “petty and misguided”.

Lord Cameron wrote to the Scottish Government on Sunday following a meeting between Humza Yousaf and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at COP28 in Dubai.

An official from the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) was not present at the meeting, which the Scottish Government claims was due to a last-minute rescheduling from Erdogan’s team.

In his letter, the recently-appointed foreign secretary said the absence of an official “contravenes the protocols in our guidance on FCDO support to devolved Government ministers’ overseas visits”.

He went on to say: “I remain open to discussing a constructive way forward. However, any further breaches of the protocol of ministerial meetings having a FCDO official present will result in no further FCDO facilitation of meetings or logistical support.

“We will also need to consider the presence of Scottish Government offices in UK Government posts.”

Speaking on Monday as he prepared to host a meeting of his Cabinet in Dunbar, East Lothian, the First Minister said: “First of all, let’s be clear – the approach from Lord Cameron is really petty and, frankly, misguided.

“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.”

Yousaf also claimed the issue could have been resolved privately, had Lord Cameron approached the Scottish Government, saying: “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.”

Any attempt to curtail the Scottish Government’s work overseas – which includes a number of offices in foreign capitals – would harm the Scottish economy, the First Minister claimed.

Explaining what happened in relation to his meeting with President Erdogan, the First Minister said: “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 added that an FCDO official was at the “vast majority” of meetings he had during the climate summit.

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