FOREIGN leaders have expressed their support for independence on multiple occasions despite the presence of senior Foreign Office officials, according to Nicola Sturgeon’s former chief of staff.

Liz Lloyd, who was also the former first minister’s most senior adviser for six years, wrote in The Times that this included a “prominent foreign prime minister.”

The comments come amid a row over Humza Yousaf’s meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday after Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron threatened to withhold support for the Scottish Government’s international relations efforts due to a lack of Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) presence.

Speaking on Monday, the First Minister said the letter was “petty and misguided”.

The National: The Foreign Secretary said the meeting breached devolution protocols

“Scotland is the part of the UK, outside of London, that has attracted the most foreign direct investment for eight years in a row, that happens because the Scottish Government’s international engagement is valued (and) has impact,” he added.

Speaking after the Scottish Affairs Committee meeting on Monday, Alister Jack claimed it happened on four other occasions during Yousaf’s time at the summit.

The Scottish Secretary told MPs there were also meetings with European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and acting Pakistani Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar.

Addressing the row, Lloyd claimed it was in fact foreign governments who often tried to block UK officials from attending meetings with SNP ministers.

READ MORE: David Cameron criticised following threat over Humza Yousaf meeting at COP28

“It was other countries — not Scotland — who would suggest ways (which we rarely took up) of meeting without a UK presence,” she said – adding: “There was nothing underhand in these proposed conversations, no opinions expressed that the UK would not already be aware of and official minutes and informal read-outs would no doubt be exchanged between civil servants afterwards.

She went on: “But there was a resistance from other countries to the idea that they had to be watched in their engagement with representatives from Scotland. Foreign Office officials who tried to speak over or undercut Scottish ministers tended to find themselves reprimanded not by the Scottish contingent but by those representing the governments we were meeting.”

Lloyd also spoke of several occasions whereby UK officials were present when foreign politicians and leaders expressed support for Scottish independence.

She said: “One poor UK ambassador had to sit through a dinner in an independent-minded country where politicians of different parties spoke of their personal support for the idea of Scottish independence — not at the suggestion of the Scottish first minister but at the invitation of their head of state.

“Another listened stoney-faced as a prominent foreign prime minister extended their best wishes to the Scottish Government in its cause.”