Cameron in threat to close Scottish embassies
Foreign Secretary David Cameron is threatening to close the Scottish government’s overseas offices and withdraw ‘logistical support’ in another row over a breach of international protocol.
His intervention came after Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf met President Erdogan of Turkiye at the COP 28 summit without UK officials being present.
In a letter to Angus Robertson, the Scottish Constitution Secretary, Lord Cameron issued a firm reminder of the rules concerning such meetings and that these are matters reserved to Westminster so that the UK can “speak with one voice to the international community”.
Lord Cameron said that despite Scottish civil servants’ assurance that they would give advance notice of the meeting with President Erdogan and its location, allowing a Foreign Office official to attend, “this was not done”.
The Foreign Secretary noted that his predecessor James Cleverly threatened to withdraw support for Scottish ministers in arranging future meetings with overseas governments.
In his correspondence with Mr Robertson Lord Cameron warned that further breaches would force the UK Government to “consider the presence of Scottish Government offices in UK Government posts”.
The Scottish government has eight offices in British embassies – in Beijing, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Ottawa, Paris and Washington DC – “to promote Scottish interests overseas and strengthen relationships”.
Lord Cameron’s intervention, which also noted an earlier meeting between Mr Yousaf and Katrin Jakobsdottir, the Icelandic prime minister in New York, is the latest indication of continuing tension between UK and Scottish ministers over overseas meetings.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has criticised the SNP-Green government for its failure to stick to the rules and ensure that a “consistent” message is given to foreign leaders.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock said the Scottish government must respect the devolution settlement over what is reserved and what is devolved.
“The Scottish government has been stretching the rules and it is right they should be brought into line,” he said.
Murdo Fraser, a Conservative MSP, said: “David Cameron is entirely right to try and curb the excesses of the SNP government on international relations. With so many issues at home demanding their attention, there is no need for SNP ministers to be wasting taxpayers’ money flying around the globe.”
A Scottish government spokesman said that Cameron’s letter was a “gross over-reaction, insisting the intention was a to have an FCDO official present for the meeting but “a last-minute change of time” prevented them from doing so.
He added: “You can hardly say to a president, ‘Can you wait a second while we find our chaperone?’”