HUMZA Yousaf has been urged to go over the heads of Westminster and host an international association said to be at risk of being lost.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) could leave the UK because of a planned change in its status, an MP has said.

Hannah Bardell, the SNP MP for Livingston, has written to the First Minister calling on him to explore whether the Scottish Parliament can legislate for the organisation to be hosted in Scotland.

The CPA is currently a registered charity but wants to change to an “international, interparliamentary organisation” which would require the UK Government to appoint it this status by passing a bill.

It brought a business case for doing so to ministers in 2018 but so far retains its charity status.

Now Bardell has suggested the Scottish Government could offer to host the organisation if no progress is made.

In a letter to the First Minister, Bardell (below) wrote: “I would therefore like to propose that the Scottish Government and Parliament urges the UK Government to urgently pass this legislation and if it does not – give serious and urgent consideration to whether we can put in place the processes to welcome the hosting of the CPA in the Scottish Parliament should the UK fail to ratify the requisite legislation.”

The National: Hannah Bardell

In its constitution, the CPA sets out it objectives as the “pursuit of the positive ideals of parliamentary democracy, and [commitment] to the core values and principles of the Commonwealth on democracy, development, equality, gender, human rights and protection of the environment as declared by the Commonwealth Charter”.

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The organisation also supports training and professional development to improve the functioning of parliaments in the Commonwealth and promotes women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in legislatures.

It is seeking a change in its status because it believes it is constrained as a charity. The CPA cannot sign international conventions and is limited in its political activities because of restrictions on UK charities.

There is also concern among member countries that their native laws restrict their ability to fund the organisation because of rules around giving public money to foreign charities.

Bardell added: “The work of the CPA is incredibly important in furthering policies and issues of climate change, women's political representation, human rights and democracy.

“It would be a great shame if the nations of the UK were to lose that hosting role. I would therefore be grateful if you could give this serious consideration and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you and your team.”

Speaking on the issue during a Commons debate on the issue earlier this year, Foreign Office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the Foreign Secretary was committed to ensuring the organisation would not have to relocate.

She said: “The Foreign Secretary wrote to the secretary-general of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association International on the issue of the organisation’s status on 21 March 2023.

“He acknowledged that the status question is complex, but he was clear that he does not wish to see CPA International have to relocate. He committed the [Foreign Office] to working with CPA International to find a solution that is acceptable to all sides, including through legislative means if possible and necessary.

“Since then, [Foreign Office] officials have been in discussion with CPA International to understand the need to vary its present charitable status and to consider how best to address these concerns.

“Although this work is ongoing, important progress has already been made.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The CPA plays an important role in areas such as human rights, women’s representation and tackling climate change. 

“Scottish Government officials are following up directly with their counterparts in the UK Government so that the necessary steps can be taken as soon as possible to ensure that the CPA can continue to operate effectively in the future.”