Scottish independence: International aid budget ‘would soar to hundreds of millions’

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AN INDEPENDENT Scotland would go from having a foreign aid budget of £9 million to a budget of hundreds of millions, the SNP’s international development minister has claimed.

Humza Yousaf insisted that an SNP government of an independent Scotland would look to exceed UN spending targets on international aid and is “actively considering” cancellation of third world debt.

Scotland currently funds projects in several of the world’s poorest countries including Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia, with the government committing £9m to its international development budget for 2013-14. Mr Yousaf, who was appointed as minister for external affairs and international development in September last year, said this figure would increase greatly under independence.

He said: “The aim should be, when independence comes, hopefully if it does come in 2014 … that we would essentially go from having a budget as we have now of £9m, modest, to a budget of hundreds of millions,” he said.

“We want people to know that Scotland has a role to play in external affairs and foreign policy.

“It has a unique perspective. We are showing our political intent.”

Mr Yousaf said that the SNP would also seek to exceed UN targets for nations to dedicate 0.7 per cent of their gross national income to overseas development.

He said: “We’ve already passed a resolution at our last parliamentary conference to say that, not only will we ensure that we meet the 0.7 per cent [UN spending target)] but we’ll look to go to 1 per cent.”

A spokesman for Mr Yousaf said: “It will be for the elected government of an independent Scotland, of whatever political persuasion, to make its own choices when it comes to domestic and overseas budgets, which in itself is one of the key advantages of independence.

“But Scotland is already in a better financial position than the rest of the UK, as the official figures show.

“And as an independent country, with control of our own vast natural resources and the savings from not spending billions on Trident weapons of mass destruction, we will be in an even healthier position in terms of having the means to create a wealthier and fairer society, as well as fulfilling our international aid obligations as a good global citizen.”