How SNP courted Qatari cash...de­spite na­tion’s ap­palling hu­man rights record

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Gareth Rose

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

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