Scottish government will not cast aside its values and cut international aid – Jenny Gilruth MSP

In government we make decisions. And in making those decisions, you reveal your deepest commitments, your guiding principles, and your abiding values.

A displaced woman gets her ration of maize at a camp for people displaced by flash floods in Bangula, southern Malawi, in 2019 (Picture: Amos Gumulira/AFP via Getty Images)
A displaced woman gets her ration of maize at a camp for people displaced by flash floods in Bangula, southern Malawi, in 2019 (Picture: Amos Gumulira/AFP via Getty Images)

Scotland remains fully committed to our support of international development – playing our part in tackling shared global challenges including poverty, injustice and inequality, as well as responding to pressing emergencies. So am I.

There are voices, I acknowledge, that question the funding of overseas development – or even why the Scottish government is doing this work at all.

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But I firmly believe that supporting international development is not just our duty but also a living expression of our values as a nation. We believe in fairness, equality and lending a helping hand.

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We do so at home and we should do so wherever in the world we can help to tackle shared global challenges such as poverty, injustice and inequality.

I think the people of these islands feel the same, and I deplore the UK government‘s decision to cut aid to some of the most vulnerable people.

It was the wrong thing to do. We cannot expect, and nor should we expect, the world’s poorest and most vulnerable to pay the price of Covid-19.

Boris Johnson's government was criticised by politicians of all parties, including former Prime Minister David Cameron and former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, for cutting the international aid budget (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

In fact, at this particular time, the values we believe in, of international solidarity in an interdependent world, are more important and relevant than ever.

We should be working to support the world’s poorest communities, not cutting their lifelines.

The Scottish government has had an international development fund since 2005. Over the last 15 years, we have managed to slowly increase the amount and the reach.

It now stands at £10 million, focused on work with our four partner countries: Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan.

Our commitment remains. Last week, we announced another £2 million to help our partner countries in the fight against Covid-19. But the pandemic isn’t just a health crisis. It has revealed the true effect of inequality – and that demands we reflect, reshape and review our approach to international development.

We also have to recognise Scotland’s historical white privilege, and the enduring inequalities that stem from that. We have a legacy to live down, as well as an ambition to live up to.

We do not expect solutions immediately, and nor do we have all the answers. But I do know we have a lot of work to do.

To inform this review, I was keen to make sure we had a set of guiding principles.

These included the recognition that the countries we work with must be able to prioritise their own needs and lead their own development.

We must ensure we design programmes that are flexible, resourceful and environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. And that, in all our efforts, we are accountable and transparent.

Ultimately, our international development programme is rooted in those enduring partnerships.

No one goes into politics without a belief they can and should make a difference. I am fortunate in having the opportunity to do that in my role as minister for Europe and international development.

So while the UK government is cutting aid to the most vulnerable in this time of pandemic and emergency, we will not cast aside our values.

My commitment, and that of the Scottish government, to international development is unswerving.

Jenny Gilruth is minister for international development

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