Yousaf condemns ‘outrageous smear’ over Scottish authorities’s Gaza funding

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Yousaf condemns ‘outrageous smear’ over Scottish authorities’s Gaza funding

Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf has described accusations that he could have had a battle of curiosity in sending funding to Gaza as an “outrageous smear” and “far right conspiracy”.

The Scottish authorities donated £250,000 to the UNRWA assist company in November 2023, similtaneously Mr Yousaf’s parents-in-law had been amongst hundreds of thousands unable to go away the enclave.

The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday that Mr Yousaf was being accused of overriding officers’ suggestions to provide Unicef, a special UN company, between £100,000 and £200,000.

In a sequence of posts on social media platform X, previously often known as Twitter, Mr Yousaf mentioned the story was an “Islamophobic attack” and an try to hyperlink him to terrorism.

He mentioned: “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.

“The newest smear from the Telegraph is only a continuation of those Islamaphobic assaults.

The first minister added: “Due to my faith & race, there will always be those, particularly on the far-right, who will desperately try to “show” 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.

“For the Telegraph to provide oxygen to those smears is miserable.”

The Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr, who sits on Holyrood’s standards committee, had earlier claimed that the first minister “could very nicely have damaged the (Scottish ministerial) code”.

The Scottish government said the money was allocated to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in response to a flash appeal for emergency aid as more than a million Palestinians in Gaza faced displacement amid the escalating conflict.

Mr Yousaf’s parents-in-law left the region on 3 November 2023.

The Telegraph story claimed Mr Yousaf told officials that, since he was about to meet senior UNRWA delegates in Edinburgh, “we must always simply announce an additional £250k to them”.

It is claimed that went against their proposed advice that the money should go to Unicef for water programmes.

The Scottish government stated that the decision had been taken following advice from officials.

Mr Yousaf mentioned: “To be clear, the Scottish authorities gave cash to Gaza, like just about each authorities within the West, due to the unarguable humanitarian disaster that has unfolded there.”

UNRWA has since been at the centre of controversy surrounding Israeli accusations that members of its staff were involved in the 7 October attacks by Hamas that triggered the fighting.

Several countries, including the UK, have announced a pause in support for the relief agency while an investigation takes place after the allegations emerged in January.

However, those accusations only became known several weeks after the Scottish government funding announcement had been made.

Stephen Kerr had claimed to the Telegraph that the funding decision suggested the first minister was “ready to bend the foundations”.

He additionally mentioned there was a “clear battle of curiosity” in aid money being provided to UNRWA.

Israel’s military launched an air and ground campaign in the Gaza Strip after Hamas’s attacks on Israel on 7 October, in which about 1,200 people were killed and 253 others were taken hostage.

More than 30,800 people have been killed in Gaza since then, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.

The conflict has created a growing humanitarian crisis, and the UN has warned that famine in Gaza is “nearly inevitable”.

With inputs from BBC

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