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.