David Cameron threat over Yousaf’s Erdogan meeting ‘breach’

Humza Yousaf and President Erdogan
Image caption,Humza Yousaf met the Turkish president at COP28

By Georgia Roberts & Mary McCool

BBC Scotland News

Foreign Secretary David Cameron has threatened to withdraw co-operation with Scottish ministers after Humza Yousaf met with Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The first minister met the Turkish president at COP28 without a UK official present, which Lord Cameron said was a breach of protocol.

It comes amid ongoing tensions between Scotland and the UK government over meetings with foreign officials.

A spokesperson for Mr Yousaf said a UK official was invited to the meeting.

Meanwhile a UK government source told the BBC Lord Cameron wants to take a “harder line” approach than his predecessor James Cleverly.

The BBC has seen a letter which Lord Cameron, who returned to the cabinet as foreign secretary last month, has written to the SNP’s External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson.

In that letter, Lord Cameron said the Scottish government had assured the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) that it would give “sufficient advance notice” of the meeting with Mr Erdogan.

He said this was to allow one of his officials to attend the meeting and “was not done”.

“The absence of an FCDO official at this meeting contravenes the protocols in our guidance on FCDO support to devolved government ministers’ overseas visits,” the letter reads.

“Any further breaches of the protocol of ministerial meetings have 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.”

British Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron looks on during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington
Image caption,Lord Cameron at a press conference in Washington in December – he was appointed foreign secretary last month

James Cleverly made a similar threat when he was foreign secretary after Mr Yousaf met the Icelandic prime minister in August, again without UK diplomats.

However a UK government source said this latest intervention represents and “escalation” over the issue and the foreign secretary wishes to take a “harder line” approach than Mr Cleverly.

On the meeting with President Erdogan, the source said that Foreign Office officials were not told where it would take place “until it was too late”.

The move “undermined UK foreign policy”, they said.

A UK government spokesperson added: “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.”

A spokesperson for the first minister said a http://juswortele.com/ UK official was aware of and invited to the meeting, and that the same arrangements were in place for Mr Yousaf’s engagements with other world leaders.

They added: “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.”

A Scottish government source said Lord Cameron’s letter was a “gross overreaction”, adding: “You can hardly say to a president, ‘Can you wait a second while we find our chaperone?'”

They said that the FCDO representative was “very late” for a couple of meetings at the summit, but that was “the nature of fast moving things like Cop.”

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