Humza Yousaf was among a number of politicians, actors and television presenters to take to the streets for International Street Paper Vendor Week.
The minister for external affairs and international development was selling the magazine outside Glasgow Queen Street Station last week when a man said “f*** off back home” to the Big Issue team, before threatening him.
The man then launched into a tirade about Romanians and Bulgarian immigrants in Scotland, despite the presence of news cameras filming the SNP politician.
The Glasgow-list MSP told The Scotsman: “I was selling the Big Issue at the Dundas Street entrance and the Big Issue team were filming me and other politicians.
“This chap came up to us and when I tried to give him some of my sales patter, he said, ‘Not from the likes of you, you’re not from my country’, or something to that effect.
“I turned around and said, ‘I think you’ll find I’m from Scotland, my home’. Then he came pretty much into my face, in a threatening manner, and he went on a rant about Romanians and Bulgarians in Scotland. I’ve been called pretty much everything you can think of by people like the Scottish Defence League, but by far the worst is being told to go home.”
He went on: “I was born in Rutherglen maternity unit, was raised and educated here, and now I’m lucky enough to represent Glasgow in Scotland’s parliament.
“Despite all of that, there will be some who look at me and think, ‘He’s not one of us’, and that’s the most hurtful and insulting thing.”
Mr Yousaf, 28, said he has reported the incident to police and hopes the suspect will be traced.
He was with full-time vendors from eastern Europe who said they are subject to such abuse almost daily.
He added: “I’m not trying to be political but this is why politicians have to be careful about the language they use. Given the language used by some in the run-up to Bulgarians and Romanians being allowed to work in Britain from 1 January, it’s not surprising this kind of views filter through.”
Mr Yousaf said that despite the incident, he was heartened by the large number of city residents and commuters who stopped to speak to him during his shift, in which he sold more than 50 copies.
Big Issue editor Paul McNamee condemned the verbal assault but said that it was commonplace.
He said: “One in three Big Issue vendors faces verbal or physical abuse while they are working hard to earn a living selling the magazine.
“It is a tough job, as many of our guest vendors found while they were taking part in The Big ‘sell-off’ last week.
“This abuse which was directed at Glasgow MSP Humza Yousaf was inexcusable, and sadly illustrates the sort of challenges that our vendors regularly have to overcome.”