Scottish independence: EFFORTS to tackle poverty overseas have a “far bigger impact” because Britain is “united”, the UK International Development Secretary said.
Justine Greening said Scotland should be “proud of the immense contribution” made to this work.
She praised aid efforts carried out by Scottish organisations and also highlighted the work of the 600 staff at the Department for International Development’s (DFID) joint headquarters in East Kilbride.
Ms Greening, who was speaking in Glasgow, said: “Over the past three years, thanks to the work of the United Kingdom, six million children across the developing world have received a primary school education, 20 million people have access to clean water and 22 million children have been immunised against killer diseases.
“These achievements belong to all of us. Scottish civil society, and Scotland as a whole, can be proud of the immense contribution made with, and through, DFID.
“Britain has a far bigger impact on the lives of the world’s neediest people precisely because we have been united in this work.”
She added: “As the world’s second biggest aid donor the UK can make truly transformative interventions, as economies of scale enable us to squeeze the maximum value for money out of every penny we spend.”
Ms Greening also argued that as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and with a place on the board of the World Bank, “the UK can ensure core values shared right across the whole of the UK are reflected at the top of these vital global institutions”.
She insisted: “As a United Kingdom, we shape rather than follow the global development agenda.”
But a Holyrood minister said the UK Government should “carry through” on its promise to bring in legislation enshrining a key target on aid spending.
International Development Minister Humza Yousaf pledged an independent Scotland would enshrine in law the UN target for countries to commit 0.7 per cent of GDP to development assistance work, saying this would see the country “effectively ‘future-proofing’ the aid budget”.
Mr Yousaf said both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had previously made manifesto pledges to enshrine the target in legislation, with the same commitment also being included in the Coalition Agreement in 2010.
He called on the Westminster Government to follow through on that.
“With the UK at long last meeting the UN aid target of 0.7 per cent - which I welcome - they must now also bring forward legislation to protect the UK aid budget in law,” Mr Yousaf said.
“They promised to do so in their party manifestos and in the Coalition Agreement, and they should carry through that promise.”
He said cash spent on international aid helped save lives across the world, and added that the UK Department for International Development (DFID) had “a good record in terms of the work it does”.
But Mr Yousaf stressed: “That work must not be subject to cuts due to, for example, pressure from the Tory backbenches. We know that the Conservative right wing have consistently attacked the aid budget - despite its life saving work - and therefore without future-proofing the aid budget there is huge uncertainty over its future.”
He added that protecting the aid budget in law would “not only protect the vital work undertaken to tackle global poverty, but will also protect the civil service jobs which help implement that work”.
MPs on the Commons International Development Committee have already raised fears about the impact independence could have on the staff DFID employs at its office in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire.
Mr Yousaf said: “The UK’s failure to future-proof the aid budget also fails to protect those jobs.”