WILLIAM Hague has questioned the lack of paperwork around Humza Yousaf’s controversial meeting with the Pakistan consulate on the day of Scotland’s equal marriage vote.

The Conservative peer who was foreign secretary at the time of the meeting said it would be “unusual for ministers to work on this in an undocumented way”

The First Minister has long insisted he could not make the key Holyrood vote in 2014 because of an “unavoidable” meeting to discuss the case of Mohammed Asghar, the Scot with a history of mental illness, who was on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy at the time.

However, last week, we revealed that the government had no minute or note of the meeting and no briefing paper prepared in advance.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf faces more questions over missed gay marriage vote

The summit with the representative from a foreign government was also not mentioned in subsequent papers detailing the actions taken on the Edinburgh man’s plight by the Scottish Government.

Official car service logs from the time do show that Mr Yousaf was taken from the parliament to the consulate in Glasgow on the day. However, there is no record of what he discussed with the Pakistan government's representative in Scotland.

Speaking to The Herald, Lord Hague said he would “be very surprised if the [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] had not sent written advice and briefing for a meeting.”

Equal marriage unexpectedly became a key issue during the SNP’s bitter leadership contest after Kate Forbes said she would not have backed the legislation had she been in parliament at the time.

Mr Yousaf criticised his colleague, which led to scrutiny of his own voting history.

Although he backed the legislation in principle at Stage 1 in November 2013, he was the only minister to miss the crucial Stage 3 vote on 4 February 2014.

This was because he created a diary clash 19 days in advance of the vote by arranging to meet the Consul General.

📝 Sign up for Unspun – Scotland's top politics newsletter. Enjoy exclusive opinion and analysis from some of Scotland's best political writers and commentators sent directly to your inbox every weekday evening. Click here to sign up 👈

Former health secretary Alex Neil claimed that the then minister for external affairs wanted to avoid the vote as he was under “pressure from the mosque”.

He claimed the meeting was arranged as “cover” for his absence.

His version of events was backed up by former first minister Alex Salmond.

But Mr Yousaf repeatedly denied the claims, saying there was no other date he could have attended the meeting.

During the leadership contest, he told journalists: “This was an unavoidable meeting, not a meeting to just discuss policy or to have a chinwag about any old issue. This was about a Scottish citizen in Pakistan on death row whose family, very publicly, had pleaded for the government to try to get involved to secure his release.”

Mr Asghar’s daughter, Jasmine, praised Mr Yousaf, saying he helped secure her father’s eventual return to Scotland in 2016.

The statement, released through solicitor Aamer Anwar, said that without Mr Yousaf’s involvement, she “doubts her father would ever have died peacefully at home.”

The Herald:

Last weekend, Mr Yousaf said he was “definitely at the meeting for sure, of course I was at the meeting as was the Pakistani consul.”

READ MORE: Yousaf ‘definitely’ was at meeting on day of same-sex marriage vote

Paperwork released to us included a briefing note prepared for 27 January which advises that either Mr Salmond or Mr Yousaf should “make representations to the authorities in Pakistan.”

On the 28th of January, Fiona Hyslop, then the cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs, and Mr Yousaf’s boss, wrote to the Consulate of Pakistan to “express the deep concerns of the Scottish Government about Mohammed Asghar, the 65 year old man from Edinburgh (with dual British and Pakistani nationality) who received the death sentence on 23 January.”

The next day, Mr Salmond spoke to Mohammad Sawar, who, at the time, was the governor of Punjab.

He urged the former Glasgow Central MP to “take all necessary steps to ensure Mr Asghar’s safety and security.”

The next paper released by the Scottish Government is dated 19 February and was a brief prepared for Mr Yousaf ahead of a meeting with Sarah Bilal, the lawyer for Mr Asghar.

It includes details of all the actions already taken by the Scottish Government, including the letter from Ms Hyslop to the Pakistan Consul General and Mr Salmond’s conversation with Mr Sarwar.

It also notes that Mr Yousaf spoke to Mr Asghar’s daughter on 5 February.

However, it does not mention the meeting on 4 February.

It then states that Ms Hyslop wrote to the Pakistan Consul General on 28 January and notes that “an acknowledgement has been received and we are waiting for a meeting to be set up.”

The briefing paper also states that the Scottish Government, under the advice of the Foreign Office are keen to keep a low profile, “to give the Pakistan authorities the room to manoeuvre on this and not push them into a corner.”

It goes on to note that blasphemy cases in Pakistan are often controversial and that international advocacy and media coverage cases involving dual nationals or people from minority backgrounds “is frequently misrepresented as criticism of Islam and/or an example of Western double standards.”

“We are therefore very mindful of the need to avoid a public debate or release of information that could hinder prospects of resolving the case as soon as possible. That is a concern that any increased media attention regarding this case could hinder progress made so far and could be disadvantageous to Mr Asghar.”

Lord Hague said: “Such cases are highly sensitive, with great attention to detail required so that messages to a foreign government are co-ordinated, and that no misunderstandings arise in making a case for compassion.

“While I do not think it out of the ordinary that a minister in a devolved administration would want to contribute to the efforts made, and there would have been no reason for the FCO to reject any such assistance, I would be very surprised if the department had not sent written advice and briefing for a meeting.

“It would also be most unusual, at least in Whitehall, for a minister to attend such a meeting without being accompanied by an official and notes taken.

“The FCO would certainly have wanted to know what had been said, and expected a report of that.”

He said it was "unusual for ministers to work on this in an undocumented way" and could lead to people suspecting that “something might be amiss here”. 

READ MORE: Alex Salmond queries Humza Yousaf's gay marriage vote excuse

Responding to Lord Hague’s comments, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Extensive searches on Scottish Government files and systems confirmed the timing and location of the meeting.

"This is in addition to detail already publicly provided on ministerial engagements. Beyond this, further relevant documentation was not found.

“The family of Mr Asghar have made it clear that they were thankful for the intervention of the First Minister which contributed to the return of their father.

“The Scottish Government is committed to openness and transparency. Our records management policy states that information and records must be retained as long as they are required to support the Scottish Government in its business requirements and legal obligations.”