Any threats to Scotland’s national security will be taken “very seriously”, Humza Yousaf has said, following the arrest of a UK parliamentary researcher accused of spying for China.
The First Minister expressed concern after it was revealed on Saturday that the man, in his 20s, was arrested in Edinburgh back in March.
Another man, in his 30s, was also arrested in Oxfordshire.
Both men were taken in under Section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 which punishes offences that are said to be “prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state”.
Asked about the arrests on Monday, Yousaf told STV News he was “obviously concerned” but added: “We can’t speak and I can’t give details because it still is a live police investigation.”
He continued: “There is good conversation and engagement between the Scottish Government and UK Government, particularly on the issues of national security and cyber security so we’ll continue to have that good level of engagement.”
The First Minister was speaking to journalists during a visit to CodeBase in Stirling.
He said ministers have been taking precautionary measures against similar threats for years.
He said: “Of course, any threat to our security and cybersecurity is one we take very seriously, and I know from conversations with the UK Government that they take it seriously too, and therefore the various agencies that are involved work and collaborate very well, so there’s already a significant amount of work that’s done to ensure that we identify where those threats come from and that we take the appropriate mitigation action.”
The parliamentary researcher has denied being a Chinese spy.
In a statement released through his lawyers, he said: “I feel forced to respond to the media accusations that I am a ‘Chinese spy’. It is wrong that I should be obliged to make any form of public comment on the misreporting that has taken place.
“However, given what has been reported, it is vital that it is known that I am completely innocent. I have spent my career to date trying to educate others about the challenge and threats presented by the Chinese Communist Party.
“To do what has been claimed against me in extravagant news reporting would be against everything I stand for.”
The researcher had links with senior Tories including security minister Tom Tugendhat and Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns.
Alex Cole-Hamilton called for the Scottish and UK governments to conduct an “immediate” strategic audit on the reach of China’s influence in Scotland.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader urged Yousaf not to be complacent in the face of national security threats.
Yousaf told journalists that while the news of the arrest was concerning, Government officials were taking the necessary precautions.
He said: “We know there are a number of hostile actors, a number of hostile states, who will try to threaten our security, indeed our cybersecurity, and I think that’s where it’s really important that the public receives a level of reassurance that we’ve been alive to these threats and are taking the appropriate precautionary measures, and have been for a number of years.”
Cole-Hamilton said: “I am deeply troubled by these reports which suggest worrying evidence of Chinese interference in the operation of our parliamentary democracy.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats have been warning about the reach of Chinese influence for some time now. We cannot afford to be complacent in the face of national security threats.
“To this end, I would like to see a commitment from both our governments to conduct an immediate strategic audit of the reach of China’s influence in Scotland.”