A backwards step in international development

ClaireBakerMSPClaire Baker, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, celebrates Scotland’s international engagement and questions the downgrading of its importance by the SNP in Westminster.


It is ten years ago this month since the Labour-led Scottish government, under the leadership of Jack McConnell established bi-lateral government links between Scotland and Malawi.

This new phase, in an old friendship that stretches back to Dr David Livingstone, was the living embodiment of the Scottish government’s first international development policy, introduced under Labour in 2005.

And in the ten years since hundreds of thousands of Scots, young and old, from our cities and our villages, have made personal and professional links with Malawi, from school twinnings to medical partnerships.

The SNP government must be congratulated for their decision to maintain, and build on, the partnership.

Indeed, until now, their commitment to international development has never been in doubt, which is why it is surprising that they have chosen to downgrade its importance in their Westminster group.

Instead of making one of their new MPs a member of their leadership group, they have pushed international development down the policy pecking order – even though it is a full Cabinet position in the UK government.

Patrick Grady MP, their spokesman, is an experienced international development expert and has worked in Malawi, but he will struggle to get his voice heard.

It was a Labour government that introduced the Department of International Development (DfID) in 1997, and it is now recognised as one of the best development agencies in the world.

Even the Tory government has protected the aid budget from its austerity cuts, in recognition of the global importance of supporting low-income countries.

All the more surprising then that the SNP has decided that the international development – a reserved issue  – is not worthy of a frontbench spokesperson, yet health and education, which are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, warrant a place in their Westminster leadership team.

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2 thoughts on “A backwards step in international development

  1. Claire, I don’t mean to sound blunt or insulting, but why is it a concern to you? I’m really not sure what you’re trying to say; I guess it’s something along the lines of ‘Labour folks are really nice and they care about poor people abroad as well as poor people at home… And those big bad SNP people just don’t care!’

    Zat it? If so, why not just say that?

    Anyway, on a more technical note, I see you pay tribute to the Tories protecting the Foreign Aid budget, even during these times of austerity. So, even the Tories can be nice, but not those big bad SNP gang. How commendable eh.

    Maybe Duncan will be kind enough to explain to you what Foreign Aid is essentially all about — I’ll give you a clue, basically we bribe those little lovely countries with UK taxpayers’ money so that they will buy arms and tanks and various other instruments of war.

    It probably seems paradoxical or something that the Foreign Aid budget would be protected during harsh times but when you consider the importance of selling that stuff to certain elements, it actually makes perfect sense. In that sense, I’m surprised they haven’t dramatically increased the budget.

    You seem to be implying that it was the Labour Party in 1997 who invented foreign aid when they set up the DFID — let me assure you, foreign aid was around long before 1997 and, as outlined above, it’s primary function has always been to promote arms sales. We learned this trick in the 1960s from the United States whose foreign aid budget serves the exact same purpose.

    It’s a pity all this, because you possibly really do mean well on some humanitarian level. You just picked the wrong subject. Maybe if you approach it from a jobs creation standpoint, you could combine your desire to be humanitarian with a defence of the arms industry. Gets a bit confusing though, doesn’t it; but I’ve noticed plenty of other people defend the arms industry in terms of the jobs it creates.

    Good luck with that.

  2. I suppose if Labour’s so insistent that the spokesperson for the SNP on international development should be on the frontbench they’ll be helping reserve a space for them?

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