Humza Yousaf has been criticised by MSPs and charities for inviting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to visit Scotland

Ross Greer from the Scottish Greens — the SNP's partners in government — said it was like rolling out the red carpet for Vladimir Putin.

While Tory MSP Dondal Cameron said the First Minister has serious questions to answer.

The Humanist Society also slammed the decision, describing it as "short-sighted." They said President Erdoğan was "an authoritarian despot."

On Thursday, The Herald revealed that the invite had been made during a controversial meeting between the pair at the COP28 summit in December.

READ MORE: Diplomatic row as Yousaf invites Erdoğan to Scotland

Speaking to journalists in Holyrood, Mr Yousaf explained that he had simply said to President Erdoğan "the next time he's in the United Kingdom why not come up to Scotland?"

"Turkey is a Nato ally," Mr Yousaf added. "Why would we not wish to have a Nato ally here?"

Asked about the President's treatment of the Kurds,  Mr Yousaf said: "The UK government regularly engages with Turkey as a Nato ally. It is an important regional player.

"Why on earth would Scotland not look to seek to engage with a Nato ally and of course somebody we seek to do business and trade with?"

Asked if he would raise human rights concerns, Mr Yousaf replied: "I would raise human rights as I tend to do whenever I have meetings with international leaders, but I should say of course, we do that in a way that also recognizes we're on a human rights journey as other countries."

Taking to X, the site formerly known as Twitter, Mr Greer shared a list of reasons not to invite Mr Erdoğan to Scotland, including the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds, the bombing civilians in Syria and Iraq, opposition politicians being locked up on nonsense charges and independent media & human rights groups shut down.

"We wouldn't roll out the red carpet for Putin or Netanyahu," he added,

Mr Cameron, the Tory shadow external affairs secretary, said: “The public will question if Humza Yousaf’s invitation to President Erdogan to visit Scotland overstepped the mark, especially given his record on a number of topics.

“We already know that Scottish Government officials dithered in informing the Foreign Office about the First Minister’s meeting at COP, and now it appears he was freelancing even further.

“He should be fully up front as to why he invited a head of state to a part of the United Kingdom without Foreign Office officials present, and what purpose he intended this meeting to serve.”

Humanist Society Scotland hit out at the invitation. Chief executive Fraser Sutherland said: “This is a very short-sighted invite from the First Minister. Under President Erdogan Turkey has seen a sustained attack on civil liberties and human rights.

“Allegations of torture against political prisoners are widespread and the Turkish government censors and blocks webpages of news websites that are critical of the governing party.”

He added: “Erdogan is an authoritarian despot.

“He should not be welcomed to Bute House by this First Minister or any who follow him”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "The First Minister has been vocal about the situation in the Middle East. I hope that he will be equally vocal about President Erdoğan's oppression of his Kurdish minority and his use of the tools of state to initiate baseless investigations, prosecutions and convictions against human rights defenders, journalists and opposition activists.

"It's right that the First Minister engages with international partners but he must be careful not to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses.

"One way of reassuring people that this is not simply a bid to play the international statesman for the cameras would be to publish a list of occasions on which he has previously raised human rights concerns with foreign dignitaries."