Lord Cameron has threatened to withdraw co-operation with Scottish ministers after Humza Yousaf met Turkey’s president at Cop28 without a UK representative.
Scotland First Minister Humza Yousaf posted an image of himself in Dubai with Recep Tayyip Erdogan on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying they had discussed the “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza on December 1.
In a letter to the SNP’s external affairs secretary Angus Robertson, Lord David Cameron said the meeting breached devolution protocols as a UK official was not given “sufficient advance notice” of the location of the meeting to be able to attend.
A spokesperson for Humza Yousaf said a Foreign Office official had been invited but “was elsewhere at the time it was convenient for the Turkish president to meet”.
The then foreign secretary James Cleverly sent a similar letter to the Scottish government on October 16, outlining “expectations” after Mr Yousaf met the leader of Iceland without any UK officials being present in September despite requests from the Foreign Office.
The letter from Lord Cameron warned co-operation will be withdrawn if “any further breaches” occurred.
The letter said: “My officials have informed me that First Minister Humza Yousaf met President Erdogan of Turkiye while at Cop28 last week, discussing among other things the situation in Gaza.
“Despite an assurance being given by Scottish government officials that they would provide sufficient advance notice to allow an FCDO official to attend that meeting, this was not done.
“A UK official was available, whose contact details were known to your officials on the ground, but the location of the meeting was not shared with them.
“The absence of an FCDO official at this meeting contravenes the protocols in our guidance on FCDO support to devolved Government ministers’ overseas visits.
“It also fails to meet the expectations re-affirmed by my predecessor when he wrote to you on October 16.
“That letter was, I note, prompted by a similar incident where FCDO officials were not present at a meeting between the First Minister and the Icelandic prime minister, despite verbal and written requests from my officials that they attend.
“It is critical that the UK presents a consistent message to our international partners and that the devolution settlements are respected. We must ensure that UK foreign policy, a reserved matter, is coherent and that we speak with one voice to the international community.
“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.”
The Scottish Government denied the allegation.
A spokesperson for the First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “The Scottish Government had no difficulty with an FCDO representative attending the meeting, and indeed the relevant UK official was made aware of it and invited.
“These were exactly the same arrangements as for other meetings that the First Minister Humza Yousaf had with governments of other countries at Cop28, at which the FCDO official was present.
“However, the nature of events such as Cop is that timings can change at the last minute, and the FCDO representative was elsewhere at the time it was convenient for the Turkish president to meet.
“Any threat by the UK Government to curtail the Scottish Government’s international engagement is misguided and would work against Scotland’s interests.
“We are more than happy to discuss with Lord Cameron the continuing support of the FCDO in facilitating the work that Scottish ministers undertake in delivering for Scotland overseas.”
The image of Humza Yousaf with Turkey’s president also provoked criticism from within the SNP due to Mr Erdogan’s track record on human rights.
SNP councillor Roza Salih, who represents Glasgow and is originally from Kurdistan, wrote: “I did not expect this from a FM that says he respects human rights.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “Foreign affairs is reserved under the Scotland Act and in such turbulent times, the need for the UK to speak on the world stage with one consistent voice is more important than ever.
“Our embassies and high commissions overseas have a strong track record of working collaboratively with the Scottish Government to promote the interests of the whole UK.
“We hope that we can resolve this without the need for further action, including the possibility that we no longer host Scottish Government offices in UK Government posts.”
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