Humza Yousaf has defended inviting the Turkish president to visit – and claimed both countries are on a human rights “journey”.
The first minister briefly met Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the Cop28 UN climate summit in Dubai last year, causing anger in the UK Foreign Office.
Minutes of the meeting, published in The Herald newspaper, show the First Minister invited the president during a future visit to the UK.
At the time, the meeting drew criticism from within the First Minister’s own party.
SNP councillor Roza Salih said she “did not expect this from a FM that says he respects human rights” over Turkey’s treatment of Kurds.
Speaking to journalists after First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Mr Yousaf defended the invitation.
“I said the next time he’s in the United Kingdom, he should come up to Scotland,” he said.
“Turkey is a Nato ally, why would we not wish to have a Nato ally here?”
‘I will raise human rights’
Asked if he would raise reported abuse of human rights by Mr Erdogan’s administration of the Kurds during any future visit, the First Minister said: “Yes, I would raise human rights as I tend to do whenever I have meetings with international leaders.
“But I should say, of course, we do that in a way that also recognises that we’re on a human rights journey, as are other countries.”
In November, Mr Yousaf’s wife, Dundee city councillor Nadia El-Nakla, attended an event in Turkey bringing together the spouses of international political leaders.
It has since emerged Ms El-Nakla’s sister-in-law and her young children were given sanctuary in Turkey after fleeing from Gaza.
A spokesman for the first minister, speaking to journalists during a briefing on Thursday, said he did not believe the invitation was “connected”.
Following Mr Yousaf’s meeting with Mr Erdogan – described in the minutes as “warm and friendly” – the Scottish Government was chastised by David Cameron, know Lord Cameron and foreign secretary in the UK Government.
Lord Cameron went as far as to threaten to withhold co-operation with Scottish ministers who travel abroad, saying: “I remain open to discussing a constructive way forward.
“However, any further breaches of the protocol of ministerial meetings having a FCDO official present will result in no further FCDO facilitation of meetings or logistical support.
“We will also need to consider the presence of Scottish Government offices in UK Government posts.”