Diplomatic spat threatens Scottish aid to Malawi

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CONCERNS have been raised over Scottish-supported aid programmes in Malawi because of a diplomatic spat between the African state and the UK government.

The Scotland Malawi Partnership said it believes the Department for International Development (DfID) is set to pull its 330 million of direct aid to Malawi, putting thousands of people at risk.

The row in April saw Britain's High Commissioner to the country expelled after he criticised its government's "autocratic and intolerant" regime. This was followed by the UK sending the Malawian High Commissioner home and suspending aid.

The UK is Malawi's biggest supporter, providing some 40 per cent of its budget, which has helped prevent thousands of people from starving and suffering from disease. Scotland has a direct link with Malawi because of its historical associations including the explorer David Livingstone, and former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell set up an aid programme to the country now worth at least 3m a year.

While Malawi Scotland and the Scottish Government said this has not been stopped by the diplomatic spat because it is channelled through Scottish charities, there are fears for the aid programme if DfID pulls funding altogether.

The issue has been taken up by Labour MP Tom Greatrex. He said: "This is a bad decision from a moral stand point, but it also hampers Malawi's ability to grow and develop its own economy and be less reliant on foreign aid in the long-run."

A DfID spokesman said: "DfID will continue to make small payments under existing programmes."