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Scottish Tories challenged to break ‘shameful silence’ on international aid cuts

Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has been challenged to break his “shameful silence” on cuts to international aid.

Thirty Tories, including former prime minister Theresa May and four other ex-cabinet ministers, have condemned Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on aid.

Ruth Davidson accused the prime minister of walking away from the UK’s responsibilities, but Mr Ross’ Scottish Tories have so far dodged questions on the matter.

independence
Boris Johnson

Britain’s aid spending was cut by Chancellor Rishi Sunak last November in what was intended to be a temporary move, but without a vote in Parliament.

Mr Sunak told MPs at the time that keeping it at the higher level “cannot be justified to the British people”.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak

The UK Government has said the pandemic has meant difficult decisions for the country’s finances.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford railed against the move in today’s debate and urged the Scottish Tories to show some “backbone” on the matter.

He said: “The decision is morally and ethically flawed, it is intellectually flawed and it shames all of us that this is done in our name.

“The harsh reality of this decision is that this will cost lives.

“Brexit Britain is rapidly exposing the future it offers – out of step and out of influence on the world stage.

“Because one thing is for sure – if the Tory government digs its heels in and slashes the aid budget – they are adding insult to injury to those dwindling few still desperately clinging on to the notion of ‘Global Britain’.”

Plea

He added: “For weeks now, the Scottish Tories have maintained a deafening and shameful silence.

“But even at this late stage, they have the chance to do the right thing.

“Because whatever our differences, I think they know that cutting international aid during a pandemic does not represent the values of Scotland or the values of our people.

“So, the Scottish Conservatives have a choice.

“Either fall in behind their prime minister no matter what he decides or join us in saying that these cuts to the world’s poorest are not done in our name.”

It remains unclear where the Scottish Tories stand, given not one of their six MPs offered to speak in this afternoon’s three hour debate.

A Scottish Tory spokesman said: “The UK Government is one of the most generous aid donors in the G7, and will be spending more than £10 billion in 2021 on climate change and biodiversity, global health security, responding to humanitarian crises, girls’ education, science and technology, resolving conflicts and promoting trade.”

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