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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
12 December 2023
David Cameron cancelled meeting to discuss cooperation with the FCDO, says Angus Robertson

Angus Robertson | Alamy

David Cameron cancelled meeting to discuss cooperation with the FCDO, says Angus Robertson

David Cameron cancelled a meeting to discuss the issue of cooperation between Scottish Government and the Foreign Office officials during Scottish minister’s official trips overseas, Angus Robertson has said. 

The external affairs minister said that it was “all the more surprising” that the foreign secretary cancelled the meeting due to take place this week following a letter sent by Cameron.

In the letter, the foreign secretary threatened to stop Scottish Government overseas teams from using British embassy and high commission offices after First Minister Humza Yousaf met with Turkish President Erdogan at Cop28 in Dubai without anyone from the FCDO in attendance.  

The constitution minister said that informal meetings will take place at large events like Cop28 “and to threaten Scotland’s interests on the basis of these discussions, arranged at pace, is ridiculous”. 

Although foreign affairs are reserved to Westminster, devolved governments are allowed to have international discussions as long it does not purport to speak for the United Kingdom or to reach agreements which commit the UK.

And Robertson, who quoted the Scotland Act, added: “The reservation of international relations does not have the effect of precluding the Scottish ministers and officials from communicating with other countries and regions, or international or European institutions, so long as the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish ministers do not purport to speak for the United Kingdom or to reach agreements which commit the United Kingdom.” 

He said that in April, former Foreign Secretary James Cleverly wrote to him “issuing inaccurate and misleading guidance to UK overseas missions” regarding the Scottish Government’s engagements. Robertson said he wrote back asking how the guidance could be “amended or withdrawn”, but he did not receive a reply, he said.  

He told the Scottish Parliament that he received a second letter in October which raised the matter of a meeting between the first minister and the prime minister of Iceland. Robertson said this letter “also contained inaccuracies”.  

Robertson said that the Scottish Government’s “only interest in pursuing our international work is promoting Scotland’s interests" and that the Scottish Government is “happy to be accompanied” by representatives of the UK. He added it is “unfortunate” that FCDO officials “sometimes do not make themselves available.” 

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