SCRAPPING the UK Government's department for foreign aid will only dilute the quality of jobs in Scotland, a leading peer has warned.

Lord Malcolm Bruce has urged Westminster officials to rethink the plans to get rid of the Department for International Development (DfID) and merge it with the Foreign Office.

Despite reassurances that DfID's base in East Kilbride will remain, and there will be "no compulsory redundancies" Lord Bruce said that the quality of jobs is likely to suffer.

The former MP who chaired the International Development Select Committee from 2005 to 2015, explained: "I visited East Kilbride quite a few times, it's basically half of the home civil service for DfID.

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"There's 620 jobs approximately in East Kilbride, which is about the same as they have in Whitehall. It is very much half of the operation. Yes they do back office functions, but they also do policy.

"They're not going to move it or shut it, but the question is as the orientation moves away from development, which is what East Kilbride supports, and more towards foreign policy which is always frankly London-based., it's difficult to see that it won't have some impact, if not on the numbers but possibly on the quality of the jobs that are based in East Kilbride."

Lord Bruce explained that not only will the merger of DfiD with the Foreign Office, into the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, impact the countries which receive aid money from the UK, it will also negatively affect the country's standing globally.

He said: "The Foreign Secretary will set the development parameters - the Foreign Secretary being somebody who knows nothing about it.

"And that's pretty sinister really, that tells you what you need to know. This is all going to be driven by foreign policy considerations, not poor people's needs."

"This is a government that neither knows nor cares about what has been built up over the years and wants to sweep it all away, and just divert as much as a budget as they can to put domestic purposes.

"Our friends are looking upon us with dismay, asking 'What happened to Britain, what's happened to these people? They've just become hardline sort of following the Trump model.'

"Obviously our enemies just regard us with contempt and say 'Well they're just irrelevant', and we are making ourselves pretty well irrelevant to anything.

"I think our standing in the world has absolutely plummeted. I've made the point that not only will this decision make the poorest people in the world poorer but will make Britain poorer."

Lord Bruce said the merger was a "toss to the right" and the principles on which DfID was set up around pro-poor, pro-democracy development, would be destroyed if aid was granted based on political allegiances, with deals made under the leadership of the Foreign secretary.

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He explained: "My worry is that [we start to see things like] 'Why don't you offer them this aid programme in exchange for this contract, or this political deal or for them supporting us at the UN' or whatever it may be.

"That's the sort of worry I have. It'll be subliminal and it won't be immediately apparent, but over time... My conclusion from this is that it is much more radical, it's much worse than people feared."

The peer also said he would expect the SNP to 'capitalise' on the merger, but argued the party had not acknowledged the provision of UK Government jobs in East Kilbride in the first place.

He said: "I have no doubt the SNP will try to exploit the scenario, but I would qualify that by saying they would have more credibility if they'd ever acknowledged the value of East Kilbride in the first place, which they never did.

"They always wanted to promote Scotland's development programme, which is very worthy and has benefited NGOs and commanded opinion but it's a tiny fraction of what the UK does.

"They've been very effective in their communication strategy. Most people in Scotland are very well aware of the Scottish development programme in Malawi, for example...They have no idea that the UK development programme in Malawi is 10 times larger. And in addition to that, we have programmes all over the world where the Scottish Government obviously doesn't go."

The staff at DfID are said to be 'devastated and demoralised' by the Foreign Office merger, with Whitehall officials being accused of using the Covid-19 pandemic to rush through changes.

Trade unions representing the department’s civil servants have written to the Foreign Office demanding formal consultation over the plans.