LONDON: Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf branded British Foreign Secretary David Cameron “petty” and “misguided” over his threat to withdraw foreign office support for Scottish ministers on overseas trips.
Cameron wrote a letter to Angus Robertson, the Scottish parliament’s constitution secretary, on Sunday in which he said Yousaf had breached protocol by meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the recent UN COP28 climate conference in Dubai without a UK official present.
He accused Yousaf of failing to provide “sufficient advance notice” of the meeting to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
Cameron, a former prime minister, also threatened to close Scottish offices in UK embassies and withdraw foreign office support for Scottish officials while overseas if there were “further breaches” of protocol.
James Cleverly made a similar threat during his time as UK foreign secretary after Yousaf met the prime minister of Iceland in August with no British officials present.
Yousaf, who is the first Muslim leader of Scotland and head of the governing Scottish National Party, dismissed the criticism on Monday, describing Cameron as an “unelected lord.”
He also said that any withdrawal of FCDO support would have a negative impact on Scotland’s economy.
Yousaf said the meeting was arranged at short notice by a Turkish delegation, but that he would have had “no problem” with a British government official attending.
According to Yousaf, an FCDO official “chose not to stay with the Scottish delegation the whole day, and because of that they ended up missing the meeting.”
He added that a UK government representative had been present during a “vast majority” of meetings held during COP28.
“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,” Yousaf 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.”
A UK government spokesperson 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.”