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by Louise Wilson
19 January 2024
First Minister Humza Yousaf defends Erdogan invitation to Scotland

The invite was extended to Erdogan (above) after the pair met at COP28 | AP/Alamy

First Minister Humza Yousaf defends Erdogan invitation to Scotland

Humza Yousaf has defended inviting Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Scotland the next time the premier visits the UK.

The first minister said Turkey was a “Nato ally” and an “important regional player”.

When pressed by journalists on Erdoğan’s human rights record, Yousaf confirmed he would raise the matter at any meeting but said Scotland is also “on a human rights journey”.

The invitation was revealed in minutes of a meeting released to The Herald under freedom of information laws.

Yousaf met Erdoğan at COP28 in Dubai last month, sparking a row with the UK Government as it took place without a Foreign Office representative.

The read-out from the meeting confirms: “FM mentioned he was last in Turkey during Ramadan in 2022 and invited RTE to visit Scotland during a future visit to the UK.”

Speaking to journalists after FMQs, Yousaf said: “The UK Government regularly engages with Turkey as a Nato ally. It is an important regional player. Why on earth would Scotland not look to seek to engage with a Nato ally and of course somebody with whom we seek to do business and trade?”

And in response to a question on human rights, he added: “Yes, I would raise human rights as I tend to do whenever I have meetings with international leaders. But I should say, of course, I’d do that in a way that also recognises we are on a human rights journey as are other countries.”

The invite has sparked fury from the Scottish Greens, Yousaf’s partners in government.

Responding on X (formerly Twitter), Ross Greer pointed to Turkey’s treatment of Kurdish people, the imprisonment of opposition politicians based on “nonsense charges”, and the shutting down of media and human rights groups.

“We wouldn't roll out the red carpet for [Russian president] Putin or [Israeli prime minister] Netanyahu,” Greer added.

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