HUMZA Yousaf has said Scottish ministers are taking the issue of China’s influence in Scotland “seriously” amid the arrest of a parliamentary researcher accused of spying for the foreign state.

The First Minister said the allegations should “give us all concern” but moved to reassure the public that ministers have been taking precautionary measures against similar threats for years.

It comes after it emerged a UK Parliament researcher was one of two men arrested in March under the Official Secrets Act, accused of spying on behalf of China.

The man, a Scot from Edinburgh, has denied the allegations.

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Speaking during a visit to CodeBase in Stirling, Yousaf said: “Of course, any threat to our security and cybersecurity is one we take very seriously, and I know from conversations with the UK Government that they take it seriously too, and therefore the various agencies that are involved work and collaborate very well, so there’s already a significant amount of work that’s done to ensure that we identify where those threats come from and that we take the appropriate mitigation action.”

The First Minister’s comments come as Scottish LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton (below) called for the Scottish and UK Governments to conduct an “immediate” strategic audit on the reach of China’s influence in Scotland.

Cole-Hamilton urged Yousaf not to be complacent in the face of national security threats.

The National:

Yousaf told journalists that while the news of the arrest was concerning, Scottish Government officials were taking the necessary precautions.

He said: “It, of course, should give us all concern, but it is a live investigation at the moment.

“We know there are a number of hostile actors, a number of hostile states, who will try to threaten our security, indeed our cybersecurity, and I think that’s where it’s really important that the public receives a level of reassurance that we’ve been alive to these threats and are taking the appropriate precautionary measures, and have been for a number of years.”

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Meanwhile, Cole-Hamilton said: “I am deeply troubled by these reports which suggest worrying evidence of Chinese interference in the operation of our parliamentary democracy.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats have been warning about the reach of Chinese influence for some time now. We cannot afford to be complacent in the face of national security threats.

“To this end, I would like to see a commitment from both our governments to conduct an immediate strategic audit of the reach of China’s influence in Scotland.”

Elsewhere, House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle (below) said security arrangements are kept under review but stressed that vetting procedures for Parliament are the same as for the UK Government.

The National: Lindsay Hoyle

In a statement to MPs, he said: “As you know, we do not discuss details of security issues on the floor of the House for reasons which are well understood.

“This is an ongoing, sensitive investigation and members will of course understand that public discussion will be wholly inappropriate. 

“However, I want to reassure members that the House follows the same vetting procedures as the Government, that issues raised by media stories are being addressed and that the security is working closely and effectively with other relevant authorities.

“We keep our security arrangements under review at all times in order to deal with the evolving threats.

“The extremely small number of people who needed to know were immediately briefed on a strictly confidential basis given the national security of this sensitive matter.”