UK Government considering reneging on 0.7% aid commitment, despite repeated promises

20 Nov 2020

The SMP is extremely concerned to learn that the UK Government is considering breaking its commitment to investing 0.7% of GNI on development assistance, especially given the Prime Minister has told the SMP that meeting this target, which is enshrined in law, is ‘right and serves the national interest’.

This 0.7% target, set by the UN in the 1970s, which was finally achieved by the UK in 2013.  It is an international commitment which is set in UK statute and one which the current Prime Minister has repeatedly committed to maintaining, in Parliament, in writing, and to the SMP.

Representing the concerns of our Members, the SMP wrote to the Prime Minister shortly after it was announced that the UK Government would be merging DFID with the FCO.  Click here to read our letter.

The Prime Minister’s reply came from the UK’s Minister for Africa, James Duddridge MP.  He wrote to the SMP stating: “Our commitment to spending 0.7 percent of our national income on aid is enshrined in law and we will continue to be guided by our responsibilities under the International Development Act, including a commitment to poverty reduction. It is right and serves the national interest.”

Secretary of State Rt Hon Alister Jack MP also wrote to the SMP addressing our concerns. He said: “We remain, of course, committed to spending 0.7% of GNI on development. It is right in itself and it serves the national interest... I am glad to join my predecessor Mr Mundell as a proud supporter of the historic and special relationship between Scotland and Malawi.”  We subsequently met with the Secretary of State and received further reassurances on the 0.7% commitment.

The SMP has joined NGOs around the UK in writing to the Prime Minister to, again, state our serious concerns.  

It is widely reported that some in the UK Government believe it is politically necessary to cut the percentage of GNI spent on aid due to Covid-19, despite the fact UK aid has already decreased this year by £2.9bn due to the economic contraction. 

The people of Scotland we represent profoundly disagree with the suggestion that reneging on our legally-binding 0.7% UN commitment to aid during a global humanitarian crisis, while increasing military expenditure by £16.5bn, will help ‘increase Britain’s global standing’.

This is not the image Scotland wishes to project to the world: we are proud to be an outward-facing nation, a good global citizen and a longstanding friend of countries like Malawi.  The people of Malawi will undoubtedly feel the impact of this proposed cut to UK aid and, on their behalf, we stand in solidarity to make known the strong sense of disappointment and frustration felt in Scotland, after all the reassurances we have received.