Fury after Humza Yousaf meets with Erdogan as David Cameron threatens cut-off

The foreign secretary Lord David Cameron has threatened to withdraw co-operation with Scottish ministers after the SNP leader met with the Turkish president.

The first minister of Scotland, Humza Yousaf met with Recep Tayyip Erdogan at COP28 without a UK official present.

David Cameron has called this a breach of protocol amid ongoing tensions between Scotland and the UK government over meetings with foreign officials.

Foreign affairs are under the jurisdiction of the UK government but devolved nations are allowed to engage internationally on things they have responsibility over.

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

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In a letter to the SNP’s External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson, Lord Cameron said the Scottish government had assured the Foreign Office (FCDO) that it would give “sufficient advance notice” of the meeting to allow a government official to attend.

According to Lord Cameron this “was not done”. A spokesperson for Mr Yousaf said a UK official was invited to the meeting.

“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.”

A similar threat was made by James Cleverly while he was foreign secretary after Humza Yousaf had a meeting with the Icelandic prime minister last August without government officials.

A UK government source said the Foreign Office was not told of the meeting with the Turkish president “until it was too late” and represents an “escalation” with Scotland “undermining UK foreign policy”.

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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 SNP leader said a UK official was aware of the meeting and that the same arrangements were in place for his 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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