ALISTER Jack has said he will “certainly not” resign over his Government’s plan to break a manifesto promise on maintaining foreign aid despite disagreeing with it.

The Scottish Secretary said he didn't want to cut £4billion from the international aid budget in response to the Covid pandemic, as it was a “terribly important” policy.

However, the Dumfries MP told BBC Radio Scotland this morning that he would not be leaving the government in protest like one of his Tory colleagues.

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"I think overseas aid from the wealthier nations is terribly important, but I’m certainly not going to resign over it," he said.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced international aid would be cut from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent of UK GDP when he set out his spending review for next year on Wednesday.

He said the current level of spending would be difficult to justify to the public as national debt soared amidst the worst economic crisis in 300 years.

It prompted Baroness Sugg to resign as a Foreign Office minister, calling the decision “fundamentally wrong”, while a series of backbench Tory MPs condemned the move.  

Three former Prime Ministers called for the change to be dropped, including David Cameron, who enshrined the 0.7% target in law in 2015.

Nicola Sturgeon said the move, which was also attacked by church leaders and charities, was “deplorable” and  pandering to the right-wing of the Tory party.

Asked about he criticism, Mr Jack said: “I would rather overseas aid had stayed at 0.7%. I think that goes without saying, because it is in law and it was a commitment.

“But we are facing unprecedented times and challenges. We’ve reduced it to 0.5%. That’s still £10bn. We’ve protected the girls in education policy within that money.

“But we are sill second in the G7 for overseas aid. I think only Germany are ahead of us.

“We’re still more than pulling our weight.

“Hopefully when our economy recovers we’ll be able to raise the figure back to 0.7%.”

Asked if he would follow Baroness Sugg and resign given he was “clearly unhappy about this cut”, Mr Jack said: “It’s not that I’m not happy. I recognise that it has to be done.

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“I would prefer we are at 0.7% because I think overseas aid from the wealthier nations is terribly important, but I’m certainly not going to resign over it.

“I recognise we have a global pandemic and we have borrowing the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Second World War, so we have to take tough decisions.”

He said 0.5% was still a “very good and credible figure” and denied it was politically driven.

He said: “I think it’s being responsible and look after people at home, prioritising our people at home who are going into economic hardship.”

Despite the Tory general election manifesto promising not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT, Mr Jack said tax hikes could not be ruled out to cope with Covid.

“That’s a matter for the Chancellor,” he said.

“Nothing’s ruled in and nothing’s ruled out, but the key is to try and re-inflate the economy as quickly as possible, and then we can make decisions after that.

Reminded a ban on tax rises had been in the 2019 manifesto, Mr Jack said: “Yes.”

Asked if that might change, he said: “It’s a matter for the Chancellor. It’s a matter for him for the future. I’m telling you the government’s strategy at the moment, which is to re-inflate the economy as quickly as possible, which is to grow the economy, to see tax receipts go up from business activity and all the other things that happen around that, but not to bring in income tax rises. 

“That’s not his strategy. His strategy is to re-inflate the economy and through that hopefully to be pay down debt in the long term.”