LONDON: Scotland’s First Minis­ter Humza Yousaf clarified his position on a Scottish government donation to Gaza, after The Telegraph ran a story on Saturday alleging that he gave the funds while his family was stuck in Gaza.

In November last year, the Scot­tish government donated £250,000 to the UNRWA aid agency. The rep­o­­­rt alleges that the donation was made shortly before Yousaf’s paren­ts-in-law were able to leave the enclave.

The Telegraph in a report said Mr Yousaf was accused of overriding officials’ recommendations to give Unicef, a different UN agency, between £100,000 and £200,000.

The story also claimed Mr Yousaf told officials that since he was about to meet senior UNRWA delegates in Edinburgh, “we should just announce an extra £250k to them”. The report said that went against their proposed advice that the money should go to Unicef for water programmes.

Mr Yousaf said on X: “I don’t usually respond to smears against me or my family, but this story is so outrageous it requires a response. Most of my political life, I’ve battled insinuations from sections of the media desperate to link me to terrorism despite campaigning my whole life against it.”

He added: “The latest smear from the Telegraph is just a continuation of these Islamaphobic attacks. To be clear, the Scottish government gave money to Gaza, like virtually every government in the West, because of the unarguable humanitarian catastrophe that has unfolded there.”

He continued: “Whether funding was given to Unicef or UNRWA, bo­­­th of course UN agencies, it was always for the people of Gaza. Fu­­nding to UNRWA was deemed the most flexible way of ensuring mo­­n­ey got to where it was needed. Hen­ce why so many governments, incl­u­ding the UK, gave millions to them.

“UNRWA, of course, had nothing to do with my in-laws being able to leave Gaza. They were able to leave Gaza due to the hard work of the crisis team at the FCDO, like every other British national. The FCDO can of course confirm this. To suggest otherwise is a flat-out lie & smear.

“I cannot tell you the trauma my family suffered, particularly during the weeks my in-laws were trapped there. To peddle far-right conspiracies in a newspaper is outrageous & will only encourage a further pile-on of vile abuse my family & I have suffered throughout this period.”

Mr Yousaf highlighted the attacks he has faced due to his faith. “Due to my faith & race, there will always be those, particularly on the far-right, who will desperately try to `prove’ my loyalties lie elsewhere. That I am a fifth columnist in the only country I call home, the country I love and the country I have the privilege of leading.”

Some responded to his tweets by saying the first minister should not deflect attention from the matter by framing it as a matter of an attack on his faith, and that he should provide “evidence and minutes of the meetings” that led to the discussion.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2024

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