Yousaf: Conflict of interest claims over Gaza aid fuel ‘Islamophobic pile-on’

Scotland’s First Minister has condemned “Islamophobic attacks” on his family as he furiously denied claims a government donation to an aid agency in Gaza was a conflict of interest.

Humza Yousaf has used social media to vehemently deny the “outrageous” claims reported in the Telegraph newspaper that he overruled officials who advised Unicef receive a donation of £100,000 and £200,000.

In November, the Scottish Government announced £250,000 would be given to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) in response to a flash appeal for emergency aid as more than a million Palestinians faced displacement amid the conflict with Israel.

The newspaper reports that Mr Yousaf, whose in-laws were among millions trapped in Gaza before escaping through the Rafah crossing, told officials he was about to meet UNWRA delegates in Edinburgh, adding “we should just announce an extra £250k to them”.

A spokesperson for Mr Yousaf initially rejected any suggestion of a conflict of interest, adding the claim was a regurgitation of “far-right conspiracy theories found online”.

Taking to X, formerly Twitter, however, the First Minister said he did not usually respond to “smears” but felt he had to address it, writing: “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 latest smear from the Telegraph is just a continuation of these Islamophobic attacks.”

He said the Scottish Government donated to Gaza “like virtually every Government in the West”.

And he reiterated that the aid agency had no role in helping his in-laws Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla flee the conflict, adding they were able to leave because of “the hard work of the crisis team at the FCDO (Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office), like every other British national”.

He added: “To suggest otherwise is a flat-out lie and smear.”

Mr Yousaf has often spoken out about abuse he has received because of his Muslim faith and said the claims were a “further pile-on” on that.

He wrote: “I can not tell you the trauma my family has suffered, particularly during the weeks my in-laws were trapped there.

“To peddle far-right conspiracies in a newspaper is outrageous and will only encourage a further pile-on of vile abuse my family and I have suffered throughout this period.”

He continued: “Due to my faith and race, there will always be those, particularly on the far-right, who will desperately try to “prove” my loyalties lie elsewhere.

“That I am fifth columnist in the only country I call home, the country I love and the country I have the privilege of leading.”

Mr Yousaf condemned the story further, adding it was “depressing” the Telegraph had given “oxygen” to the “smears”.

But he said it will “not stop me from raising my voice for the plight of the people of Gaza or for continuing to call for the immediate release of hostages”.

Mr Yousaf’s parents-in-law were evacuated from the enclave via the Rafah crossing on November 3 2023.

The First Minister spoke publicly about their return at the time, saying the moment was “bittersweet” because “we are still in significant distress given the family that are still there but also the whole world is in distress at the scenes we are seeing unfold in Gaza”.