How SNP courted Qatari cash...despite nation’s appalling human rights record
THE SNP Scottish Government was accused of hypocrisy last night after courting investment from an oil-rich Middle Eastern country with an appalling human rights record.
Secret documents unearthed by The Scottish Mail on Sunday lay bare how Ministers urged the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) to plough some of its billions into colleges, laboratories, investment schemes and energy projects in Scotland.
In briefing papers for Ministers, government officials insisted any deal must ‘benefit the Qatari population and the international standing of the state of Qatar’. But yesterday critics said the revelations exposed the ‘rank hypocrisy’ of SNP Ministers, while others said the ultimate breakdown of talks was further evidence of their inability to close a deal.
Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay is demanding answers on the ‘wholly inappropriate’ wooing of a country where, it is claimed, 1,000 workers a year die due to ‘slave labour’ conditions and poor working practices. International trade union bodies estimate 7,000 workers will have died building stadiums by the time Qatar hosts the 2022 football World Cup.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, while Amnesty International has reported ‘serious shortcomings’ affecting human rights, with women ‘inadequately protected from violence within the family’.
Yet none of this stopped SNP Ministers courting Qatari cash. Letters obtained under Freedom of Information rules show that, in January 2015, Business Minister Fergus Ewing wrote to Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed bin Saud al-Thani, the new QIA chief, seeking continued talks about ‘opportunities for the QIA to invest in Scotland, particularly in education, life sciences, financial services and energy’. Mr Ewing told Sheikh al-Thani: ‘I look forward to welcoming you to Scotland.’ But instead Scottish International Development Minister Humza Yousaf was dispatched to Qatar.
The Scottish Government claimed Mr Yousaf raised concerns over migrant workers and urged Arab states to ‘comply with international and human law, and condemn abuses’, but Mr Yousaf’s briefing note from officials made no mention of human rights.
In a parliamentary motion Mr Findlay says the Scottish Government’s investment pitches to Qatar ‘have been wholly inappropriate and not in tune with a commitment to human rights’.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: ‘Despite the SNP’s rhetoric on human rights, their actions speak of rank hypocrisy.’
TALKS: Sheikh Abdullah al-Thani