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We will pursue a policy of Do No Harm

This week I will visit Malawi and Zambia and see first-hand how the partnerships between our nations' people are changing lives for the better.

Scotland's relationships with Malawi and Zambia go back 200 years to David Livingstone. Dr Livingstone's explorations were driven by his Christianity and belief in commerce and civilisation - this was most notable with his campaigns against slavery which were before their time.

During my visit to Malawi and Zambia I will see first-hand how we are working with the world's poorest to develop electricity connections to remote villages through our renewable energy initiatives, to empower women and give them their financial independence, to help farmers ensure they can put food on their tables not only this year but for years to come, and to improve education as a route out of poverty.

The model of traditional grant aid, where the relationship between donor and recipient can be distant and hierarchical, is no longer effective. It is my belief that Scotland can lead the way in developing truly reciprocal partnerships in tackling endemic poverty across the world.

We may be able to give the people we help the tools for change, but that's not the end of the process, it is only the beginning. We can give a woman who has recovered from fistula the means of earning a living and restoring her place at the centre of her community - but it is with her entrepreneurial drive that she will be able to earn a living after that. We can teach and support a farmer moving to sustainable farming methods - but he must sow his seeds and harvest his crop. We can help schools with the equipment they need, and their communities to have the electricity at home to see to do their homework at night - but it is up to the pupils to study hard to give themselves the best possible start in life.

That is what the Scottish Government's approach to aid and international development is about - partnerships, and giving people the skills and tools they need to help themselves. We talk about projects "partnered" by the Scottish Government, not "funded" - because although the financial contributions we make are substantial, they are nothing compared to the work put in by the people on the ground.

While I am in both countries, I will meet up again with the Commonwealth Games Queen's Baton Relay, which I saw depart on its epic journey from Glasgow, and met up with again in India and Pakistan. The baton is travelling through each of the 70 countries which will take part in the Games before it returns to Glasgow - a symbol of our shared history, but also of our shared future.

When we talk about that shared future, it is important to recognise that our international development work does not just benefit the countries we work with - it is hugely beneficial for the people of Scotland.

Our relationship with Malawi is particularly strong, and virtually every family in Scotland will have some connection with the country - be it from taking part in a bake sale through to travelling over to Malawi and volunteering. Schools all over Scotland have partner schools in Malawi - allowing children to make real connections and friendships with other young people, and learn how different their lives are - but how similar we all are underneath. These experiences benefit all of us, and help us have a better understanding of the world and our place in it.

In an Independent Scotland, we would continue this partnership approach, and take it further. We are committed to more and better aid - meeting the target of 0.7% of gross national income as aid, with an aspiration of 1% over time, and introducing legislation to make that a binding, statutory commitment.

Furthermore, we will be consistent in our compassionate approach to the world's poorest. That means upon independence we will pursue a policy of Do No Harm - where our good work globally will not be undermined by the selling of arms to some of the world's most brutal dictators, as has been done by previous UK Governments.

Our focus will continue to be on partnership, and on achieving real and tangible outcomes on the ground. When Scotland becomes independent, we will continue to build on the historical and contemporary relationships which exist between Scotland and the developing world. An independent Scotland will seek to be a global leader in the field of international development. But this is not simply about the amount of aid given in absolute monetary terms, but the impact that it makes.

This week I will meet with people in Malawi and Zambia and learn about the impact we've had on their lives. I'm certain what I learn will have a huge impact on mine.

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