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Scotland’s front-seat role in International Development: Political Parties debate UK aid days before election

The major political parties in Scotland set out their approaches to overseas aid and development at a general election debate just days before the country goes to the polls.

The debate – which took place at Edinburgh University on Wednesday night – was organised by anti-poverty campaigning group ONE with development-umbrella organisation NIDOS* and Edinburgh University Development Academy.

Addressing an audience of students, academics and NGOs, the mix of MSPs and Westminster candidates set out how their party was the one to trust with UK aid and how Scotland contributed to international development.

Speaking after the event, Diane Sheard, UK Director of ONE, said: “Just days before one of the most unpredictable elections for a generation, this event was an important opportunity for young Scottish voters to hear from the parties about international development.

“Whatever the outcome next Thursday, Scottish MPs will play a huge role in shaping the UK’s support for the world’s poorest. They will be in the driving seat to help end extreme poverty.

 “I hope that they seize this opportunity with both hands, and play a full role in ensuring that most UK is focused on the countries that have least, and that girls and women are at the centre of the UK’s development agenda.”

Speakers were: Liberal Democrat candidate Michael Moore, who introduced the recent International Development Act in Westminster; Humza Yousaf MSP, SNP Minister for Europe and International Development; Labour MSP, Claire Baker; Green Party MSP, Patrick Harvie; and Conservative candidate Iain McGill.

The panel debated issues from the role aid plays in the UK’s foreign policy, the importance of girls and women in development, and the new Sustainable Development Goals.

Commenting on the debate, Gillian Wilson CEO of NIDOS, said: “Aid is important, but we have to look beyond it and we must act together to do this. Moving beyond aid programme in a coherent way is even more change happens.”

ONE called on participants to support the ‘Just Say Yes’ campaign by signing a pledge, committing to work to end extreme poverty.

Speaking after the debate, the panelists said:

Claire Baker, Labour MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, said:

“It’s very important we look to rebalancing the books to ensure aid goes to the countries with the greatest need, with the most inequality and disadvantages. We are very committed to improving lives for girls and women across the world.”

Michael Moore, Lib Dem PPC for Borders, said:

“Development matters because every day British support saves lives across the world. This pledge reinforces the commitment people like me have made for a long time so that we can continue to make a difference.”

Iain McGill, Conservative PPC for Edinburgh North and Leith, said:

“I am heartened by cross-party consensus on so many issues such as aid, girls and women and climate change. The political will and consensus is there. It’s so important for organisations to keep campaigning and keep these issues in the public and politicians’ eyes.”

Humza Yousaf, MSP for Glasgow, said:

“The pledge is fantastic and ending extreme poverty should always be at the heart of politics. The debate could have been three hours long, it’s amazing how engaged people are. Campaign organisations like ONE are at the core of making sure that these issues are at the heart of the development agenda.”