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Stephen Kerr say he won’t apologise for ‘Islamophobic smear’ against First Minister Humza Yousaf

WorldStephen Kerr say he won't apologise for 'Islamophobic smear' against First Minister Humza Yousaf


A senior Conservative MSP says he will not apologise for comments which have been branded Islamophobic and akin to “vile abuse”.

Mr Kerr said the First Minister had “bent the rules” in awarding £250,000 of taxpayers’ money to the UNWRA aid agency, and accused him of having a “clear conflict of interest”.

Stephen Kerr, Conservative MSP for Central Scotland. Image: Michael Gillen/JPI Media.Stephen Kerr, Conservative MSP for Central Scotland. Image: Michael Gillen/JPI Media.
Stephen Kerr, Conservative MSP for Central Scotland. Image: Michael Gillen/JPI Media.

The Central Scotland MSP has since said he does not regret his choice of words, and will not apologise for doing his job.

At the beginning of 2024 a dozen UN staff from the UNWRA were accused of being involved in the October 7 Hamas attack.

The Times of Israel has since said the UNWRA claims employees were pressured by Israeli authorities to falsely state the agency had links to Hamas and that staff took part in the attacks.

Humza Yousaf has dismissed as "ludicrous" and "completely untrue" suggestions of a conflict of interest. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA WireHumza Yousaf has dismissed as "ludicrous" and "completely untrue" suggestions of a conflict of interest. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Humza Yousaf has dismissed as “ludicrous” and “completely untrue” suggestions of a conflict of interest. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Mr Kerr said the First Minister has “some serious explaining to do” and said “it looks as if the money was not budgeted and the First Minister was prepared to bend the rules and not follow procedure”.

He added: “Humza Yousaf has a clear conflict of interest in the awarding of aid to Gaza.

In response, Mr Yousaf defended the decision, saying giving the funds to the UNRWA was the most flexible way of ensuring the money went where it was most needed.

Posting on X, Mr Yousaf said: “Most of my political life, I’ve battled insinuations from sections of the media desperate to link me to terrorism despite campaigning my whole life against it.

“To be clear, the Scottish Government gave money to Gaza, like virtually every government in the west, because of the unarguable humanitarian catastrophe that has unfolded there.”

The funding announcement was made the day before Mr Yousaf’s in-laws were able to escape Gaza through the Rafah crossing into Egypt – however he said the UNWRA had “nothing to do” with his in-laws being able to leave the region.

He added: “To peddle far-right conspiracies in a newspaper is outrageous and will only encourage a further pile-on of vile abuse my family and I have suffered throughout this period.

“Due to my faith and race, there will always be those, particularly on the far-right, who will desperately try to ‘prove’ my loyalties lie elsewhere.”

Patrick Harvie MSP, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, shared Mr Yousaf’s comment on X and said it was “gutter politics from a Tory MSP whose membership of Holyrood’s standards committee is a stain on our parliament”.

Mr Kerr was then asked by BBC The Sunday Show if he would apologise for the comments he made to The Sunday Telegraph.

He said: “No – there are questions about how it came about that £250,000 allocated to the Unicef children’s aid agency was overnight on one email pivoted.

“All I’m asking is, and it’s not unreasonable to ask as a parliamentarian, is exactly what happened and why this decision was made.”

He described the response his comments have received as an “overreaction” and said he doesn’t see why he should regret his choice of words.

Mr Kerr added: “I am not apologising for doing my job.

“No one who watched the trauma the First Minister went through when his family were stuck in Gaza can say there is not an issue of personal interest – therefore it is not wrong in the slightest.”

During his interview with the BBC Mr Kerr also admitted UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s decisions to extend the windfall tax on oil and gas giants is “disappointing” for the Scottish Conservatives.

However Mr Kerr said: “We believe it is wrong to extend the windfall tax to 2029 and we will do everything in our power to persuade the government it is a mistake to do so.

“Every year since 2017 we have presented the chancellor and the Prime Minister with a list of things we as Scottish Conservatives want to see included in the budget.

“Sometimes they’re agreed to, sometimes they aren’t, that’s the nature of pre-budget discussions.

“We’re not running away from the fact we are disappointed, but we are still the party standing up for oil and gas.”

Mr Kerr added Mr Hunt’s comments that the Scottish oil and gas industry was the “loser” in his budget were not “wise words” from the chancellor, and described his interview with the BBC as “careless”.





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