First Minister criticised for Qatar human rights stance

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ALEX Salmond was ­heavily ­criticised for his relationship with Qatar over the Arab state’s controversial human rights record, during a Holyrood ­debate yesterday.

The First Minister took part in a high-profile trade ­mission to Qatar – the hosts of the 2022 World Cup – to ­promote Scottish business and educational links in 2011.

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser claimed that Mr Salmond had failed to confront the country’s leaders over the human rights issue and had instead heaped praise on the nation.

Mr Fraser criticised what he said was Mr Salmond’s close relationship with other regimes accused of having poor human rights records, such as China and Sri Lanka.

However, Mr Fraser, speaking during a Holyrood debate on human rights, said that the “most striking example” of Mr Salmond’s silence on the issue was Qatar.

Mr Fraser said: “This is a country where migrant workers are oppressed, and homosexuality is illegal and punishable with up to five years’ imprisonment.

“Human Rights Watch say that the football World Cup to be played in Qatar in 2022 will be ‘a crucible of exploitation and misery’ for poorly paid migrant workers’.

“But when Alex Salmond visited Qatar he was full of praise for the country and ‘the remarkable similarities between our respective nations’.”

However, the SNP’s international development minister, Humza Yousaf, defended the First Minister’s stance on human rights, claiming the UK government sold weapons to oppressive regimes across the globe.

Mr Yousaf said that the SNP government was “unashamed” about its “promotion of human rights” in nations such as Qatar, China and Sri Lanka.

The SNP minister asked Mr Fraser whether he felt “shame at the UK government selling arms to some of the worst abusers” of human rights.