International development secretary Jenny Gilruth says the Scottish Government will look again at tying Scotland’s modest aid budget with development goals around better health and education opportunities for women and girls.
The promise comes after questions were raised on our Election Hub Live digital newscast about why the Scottish Government had committed this week to spending an extra £5 million on coronavirus relief, earmarking some funding for Pakistan.
The south-Asian country has an estimated 11 billion US dollar budget this year for defence spending and has allocated just 155 million dollars to health care.
Speaking on Election Hub Live today, Ms Gilruth said: “Our spend in Pakistan is focused on scholarships for women and girls so I wouldn’t agree with that assertion (that it’s an ill-advised spend).
“Our investment with regard to international development in Pakistan is limited to those scholarships.”
In terms of spending in Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia, that is also focused in areas supporting women and girls.
When asked if there was a disconnect between giving funding to Pakistan, which has a nuclear stockpile and significant defence budget, and the SNP, who oppose nuclear weapons, Ms Gilruth said the manifesto includes a commitment on “policy coherence”.
She pointed to the example of Sweden which has strongly linked its foreign policy with its aid policies and has been vocal on calling out countries with poor human rights records.
The SNP candidate for Mid Fife and Glenrothes added: “What we will look to do in the next parliament, if re-elected, is to try to make sure there is greater coherence with regards to our policies across every portfolio area.
“Not just for international development but trade links, all parts of government, and I think that’s hugely important.
“Sweden have done really good work on this but without that example, setting it aside, I’ve raised it with a number of other international development ministers.
“I don’t think any other countries are further ahead on where we might be at this moment in time but it’s a challenge for all countries.”
The SNP have said they will increase the International Development Fund by 50%, from £10 million to £15 million, and commit to further increases in line with inflation.
Ms Gilruth told Election Hub Live that the Scottish Government’s partner countries were “struggling in terms of the pandemic and we had to try to do all that we could in government to try and assist them with that”.
She added: “We’re not an independent country, we don’t have unlimited funding with regard to international development but I think it’s a step forward in terms of showing our commitment to some of the world’s most vulnerable.
“It’s hugely important that we step up. If we want to be an independent country then these are the kinds of things we need to take seriously.
“This contrasts with the UK Government’s approach to international development who chose instead to cut the official development assistance (ODA) spend.”