NICOLA Sturgeon has condemned Rishi Sunak’s decision to break his manifesto promise to maintain international aid as “deplorable”.

The First Minister alleged it was a "political gesture to the right wing of the Tory party". 

SNP international development minister Jenny Gilruth also said it was a “dangerous and deeply irresponsible move” that would further undermine global trust in the UK.

"It is shameful," she said.

While the Church of Scotland said it was “short-sighted and tarnishes the UK’s international reputation”.

Delivering his 2021/22  spending review, the Chancellor announced spending on overseas aid would be cut from 0.7 per cent of national income to 0.5% next year.

He said he hoped the measure, which would save around £4bn, would be temporary.

However it provoked a swift backlash from Tory MPs who objected to the breaking of a manifesto promise and warned it could terns of thousands of lives. 

Forgeign Office minister Baroness Liz Sugg resigned her post, saying the decision was “fundamentally wrong”.

On Twitter, Ms Sturgeon said: "The cut to the overseas aid budget is a political gesture to the right wing of the Tory party, and the price of it will be paid by some of the poorest people in the world. Deplorable indeed."

Mr Gilruth said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has caused untold distress and damage to people and economies across the world, and as the UK Government’s primary source of development assistance, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office must do all it can to help the world’s poorest countries to both respond and to build back fairer.

“This move also raises questions about trust in the Government.

"In June, the Prime Minister said he would abide by the legally-binding commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on overseas development aid.

"Now that commitment seems to have been abandoned entirely.

“It is a dangerous and deeply irresponsible move at a time when the world is responding to a pandemic that does not respect borders.

Urging the Mr Sunak to reverse the decision, she went on: “The UK Government has been warned against taking this path by a host of charities, non-governmental organisations and prominent global figures.

“Turning its back on the commitment, and in turn abandoning some of the world’s poorest communities, demonstrates the UK Government is only concerned with pursuing self-interest." 

The Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Faith Impact Forum of the Church of Scotland, said: “The decision to slash the aid budget will do irreparable harm to our partners around the world, who themselves are braced for the economic shock of the pandemic.

“Cutting this work is short-sighted and tarnishes the UK’s international reputation.

 “In times of global need, it is those with the broadest shoulders that need to support others.

“International development is not about charity, it is essential to the delivery of the vision of a Global Britain, as foreign aid supports UK priorities.

“Protecting public health, promoting human rights, tackling violence against women, mitigating against climate change.

“Helping to build stable economies and societies will have long term benefits for international peace and security. 

“We ask MPs of all parties to urge the UK Government to reconsider, for the sake of humanity and because of what this decision says about what kind of country we aspire to be.”  

Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “To cut our aid budget by a third in a year when millions more will fall into extreme poverty will make not just them poorer but us poorer in the eyes of the world.

"There are many ways in which we exert our influence and our values across the world," replies the chancellor. He adds that even with the cut the UK will be more generous than "almost all of our major economy peers".

Green MSP Patrick Harvie added: “By breaking his promise and cutting international aid the Chancellor has abandoned any pretence that the UK can play a positive role on the world stage in tackling global inequality.

"Rishi Sunak is choosing to raid the programmes which support the most vulnerable people on our planet."