Willie Rennie calls for international relations review after Humza’s howler

The Scottish Government has a Minister for External Affairs, whose job it is to represent the Scottish Government on the international stage. This role is currently undertaken by SNP rising star Humza Yousaf.

Humza has spent this week in Doha at the International Forum there. This is an event which discusses key international issues as they affect the Middle East. He has been caught on video telling this international audience of academics, political leaders and intergovernmental organisations that the UK Government wants to leave the European Union. Unfortunately for him, he was caught on video doing it. Have a look at the 6th video down, starting at 2 hrs 6:20 in.

Even at the moment, the United Kingdom Government is wanting the UK to leave the European Union but the Scots wish to remain a part of the European Union.

To try to suggest that the personal views of a couple of Cabinet ministers on how they would vote in a referendum that is not going to happen in this Parliament is the official position of  the UK Government is at best mischievous.

Willie Rennie has called on First Minister Alex Salmond to rein in his errant colleague:

The Minister for External Affairs seems to have deliberately misrepresented UK Government policy.  At no stage has the UK Government stated it wants to leave the European Union.

After comparing the Scottish independence movement with the Arab Spring, Humza Yousaf is morphing into a Scottish version of Johnny English.

It is not fitting for a government minister to misrepresent the position of either of Scotland’s governments on the world stage. This blundering, cavalier style of diplomacy can paint a false picture to international partners and have real implications for our businesses.

The First Minister needs to rein in his minister before he causes any more problems.

He has put down a motion to the Scottish Parliament which calls on the Scottish Government:

to review the way in which it conducts its international relations so that audiences, whether domestic or international, can have confidence that its ministers are giving an accurate and honest statement of the position of other governments.

On the Arab Spring issue, there is a predilection amongst some nationalists to compare their fight for independence to other struggles against brutal regimes. I wrote about that a couple of weeks ago after a comment to that effect was left on here. On this occasion, I think that maybe the pudding was being over-egged a little bit by his critics. After all, he did explicitly say that you couldn’t directly compare the two.  I think the rest of his comments were more deserving of further scrutiny. He talked about the need for:

We need to learn more about how we can use digital media as a means of consulting with the youth, to make young people feel more engaged.

Well, maybe – but you could try talking to them as well. The techy stuff is an add-0n. There’s nothing as good as actually listening to what they have to say in person.

And I hope he was joking when he said this, on the construction of a new political framework:

More importantly than anything it must be inclusive of women, young people, minorities and even of our opponents.

Wow. Don’t get too over-enthusiastic about the idea of political pluralism, there, Humza.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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