Humza Yousaf will defiantly brush aside UK Government concerns about him meddling in foreign affairs when he speaks to EU ambassadors about the crisis in Gaza this week.

The First Minister is due to address representatives from all 27 European Union countries in London on Tuesday, potentially spearking another row with the Foreign Office.

The meeting has been arranged by Pedro Serrano, the EU ambassador to the UK.

Mr Yousaf is expected to repeat his call for a ceasefire in Gaza, where the UN estimates 75% of the 2.2m Palestinian people have been displaced by the Israel-Hamas conflict.

READ MORE: Diplomatic row as Yousaf invites Erdoğan to Scotland

The First Minister, who has accused key figures in the Israeli government of promoting “ethnic cleansing” in Gaza, will also speak about Friday’s court ruling on the crisis.

The International Court of Justice at the Hague ordered Israel to take all measures to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza, but stopped short of demanding a halt to military action. 

The interim ruling, prompted by South Africa alleging the war in Gaza amounted to genocide, was sidestepped by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said Israel would “continue to do what is necessary to defend our country and defend our people”.

Since Mr Yousaf last met the EU ambassadors in April last year, the UK Government has publicly complained about SNP ministers apparently straying into foreign affairs.

In October, then Foreign Secretary James Cleverly threatened to withdraw Foreign Office assistance for Scottish ministers on foreign trips.

The Herald:

It followed Mr Yousaf excluding a UK diplomat from his meeting with Icelandic prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir during Climate Week in New York the previous month.

In a letter to the Scottish Government, Mr Cleverly said he was “disappointed” by the move, especially after several successful overseas trips by Scottish ministers earlier in the year. 

He said the New York incident contravened “longstanding” guidance that FDCO [Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office] staff sit in on such minister-to-minister meetings.

However in December, Mr Yousaf also cut the FCDO out of a controversial meeting he held with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Cop28 summit in Dubai.

The pair discussed the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which Mr Yousaf said he wanted to see addressed by a ceasefire, going further than the UK Government position.

The Herald later revealed Mr Yousaf also invited President Erdoğan, who is accused of multiple human rights abuses in Turkey, to visit Scotland when he next came to the UK.

The Herald:

The meeting prompted Mr Cleverly’s successor at the Foreign Office, Lord Cameron, to complain about a further breach of protocols in the wake of the New York incident.

Lord Cameron wrote to the Scottish Government last month: “It is critical that the UK presents a consistent message to our international partners and that the devolution settlements are respected. We must ensure that UK foreign policy, a reserved matter, is coherent and that we speak with one voice to the international community.

“Any further breaches of the protocol of ministerial meetings having a FCDO official present will result in no further FCDO facilitation of meetings or logistical support. We will also need to consider the presence of Scottish Government offices in UK Government posts.”

A Scottish Government source acknowleded there was a "defiant" dimension to Mr Yousaf's meeting with the ambassadors, but said "the Cleverlys of this world" wouldn't make him change tack.

It emerged on Friday that Turkey paid for Mr Yousaf's wife, Nadia El-Nakla, to  attend a conference on Palestine in Istanbul in November as 'First Lady of Scotland'.

The Herald:

Ms El-Nakla's mother and father, her brother and his family were trapped in Gaza after the Israel-Hamas conflict began last October.

Her parents escaped in November and her brother's wife and children were given sanctuary by Turkey in December.

Tuesday’s meeting will be at diplomatic level, rather than minister-to-minister, and so FDCO officials are not required to attend.

EXCLUSIVE: Turkish government paid for Nadia El-Nakla trip to Istanbul

However the subject matter of Mr Yousaf’s meeting is still likely to raise Unionist hackles.

Labour peer Lord George Foulkes said the Scottish Government couldn’t help “pretending to be independent”.

He said: “The First Minister seems determined to not only continue but expand his interference in Foreign Affairs in defiance of the UK Government.

“His meeting and follow up with President Erdoğan is the most blatant and dangerous example. Relations with Turkey are very sensitive.”

Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “It appears Humza Yousaf is once again pushing his luck in an attempt to provoke a constitutional spat with the UK Government.

“Despite ignoring protocol over his meeting with the Turkish president, the First Minister is once again intent on freelancing on a reserved policy area.”

Mr Yousaf will meet City of London financiers at a Burns event tomorrow.

He is also due to take part in the Rest is Politics podcast with former Tory leadership contender Rory Stewart and former New Labour spindoctor Alastair Campbell.

The SNP leader is expected to meet the party’s Westminster boss Stephen Flynn, but not the wider SNP MP group.

Nor is Mr Yousaf expected to meet Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, despite asking to “establish a working relationship” with the man he says is certain to be the next PM.

Labour insiders regard the offer as a trap which would see the party accused of striking a pre-election pact with the SNP, handing ammunition to Rishi Sunak and the Tories.