Scottish Government officials urged caution over the attendance of Humza Yousaf’s wife, Dundee councillor Nadia El-Nakla, at a Gaza summit in Turkey.
Ms El-Nakla attend One Heart for Palestine at the invitation of the first lady of Turkey, Emine Erdogan, who called her on her personal mobile after government officials said they would seek to find out more about the event.
The nature of the contact meant no official listened in on the conversation, as would be normal protocol for such discussions.
Ms Erdogan’s invite came while Ms El-Nakla’s parents, Dundee residents Maged and Elizabeth El-Nakla, were trapped in Gaza as Israeli forces launched an assault on the territory.
They spent a month in the city, unable to leave as supplies of water run out, before eventually escaping via the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.
Dundee West End councillor spoke alongside leaders’ spouses from Qatar, Turkmenistan and Libya during the event in Istanbul, which she attended in a personal capacity alongside an SNP press officer.
But emails released to The Times reveal the invite, as well as a request for a call between Ms El-Nakla and the first lady of Turkey, was repeatedly made through official channels.
The Turkish consulate-general first approached the Scottish government’s external affairs department on November 6.
They asked if a telephone call with Ms El-Nakla could be arranged so Ms Erdogan could invite the first minister’s wife to a “meeting she plans to host on the crisis in Gaza”.
First lady of Turkey called Nadia El-Nakla’s personal mobile
The SNP-led government’s head of European relations then wrote to Mr Yousaf and external affairs minister Angus Robertson advising that a “holding response” be issued while “officials seek further information about the event from the Turkish consulate-general”.
The newspaper reports that Mr Yousaf then responded saying his wife “should absolutely do the call”, but agreed more information on the event would be needed.
But one week before the summit, on November 8, Ms Erdogan called Ms El-Nakla on her personal phone.
The Turkish consulate wrote again to the government’s external affairs office about the event, prompting the first minister’s private secretary to respond saying: “Please be advised that the first minister’s wife intends to take up the invitation to attend the event in Turkey in a personal capacity.
“The invitation is therefore not to be managed in a government space.
“Can you let me know if you are still receiving approaches from the consulate?”
The UK Foreign Office was informed Ms El-Nakla would attend the summit but decided “no official assistance” would be given as she was attending in a personal capacity.
The documents emerged less than a week after it was revealed Mr Yousaf had invited the Turkish president to Scotland after meeting with him in Dubai at the COP28 climate summit.
Foreign relations are reserved matter and the first minister’s meeting with Erdogan, without any UK Government officials being present, prompted a stern rebuke from foreign secretary Lord David Cameron.