THE UK Government claims it’s been forced by the economic effects of the pandemic to make a “hard decision” to cut foreign aid.

Foreign aid at 0.7 per cent of GDP was 1.82% of UK Government spending in 2019, and 1.56% in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. Much went to the poorest countries, people and children in the world, providing clean water, enough food, schoolbooks, teachers, nurses and doctors. These people aren’t big donors to party funds, don’t vote here, can’t move jobs abroad. This wasn’t a hard decision, but a gutless one, pandering to ignorance and costing lives.

Some say we should “help our own people first”. But as Tory Brexiters told us, the UK is the fifth-largest economy in the world; and the 23rd richest out of 193 countries. It still is, but supposedly now too broke to give under 2% of public spending to the world’s poorest.

UK public debt is about 100% of GDP, 30% of which is owed to the Bank of England (that is, itself). After the Second World War it was more than 200% of GDP and government increased spending, the economy grew, and the debt was gradually paid off.

The Government could afford to maintain foreign aid and help the poorest here, instead it has punished them; cutting and capping benefits for the working poor, the disabled, ill, mentally ill and carers, even when the economy was growing.

The poorest countries are suffering much more than the UK, a wealthy country with a relatively well-funded healthcare system, and first to get vaccines.

Leaving more people hungry and ill, and getting doctors and nurses (who could administer vaccinations) sacked won’t help get the global pandemic under control. The more infections worldwide the more new variants will come here; especially without any proper New Zealand-style mandatory hotel quarantine of all passengers entering or re-entering the country.

If the Government wants to make hard decisions it could crack down on tax evasion and avoidance by big donors to Conservative Party funds.

Duncan McFarlane, Carluke.


ALEXANDER McKay (Letters, June 8) epitomises the hypocrisy of diehard supporters of the Union. Of course there is a valid argument that “foreign aid" could be better targeted (especially when the UK’s reduced GDP automatically translates to reduced aid budgets), but to condemn India and Pakistan for pursuing nuclear weapons programmes while many in their countries are living in poverty conveniently avoids confronting some stark home truths.

Instead of, by example, encouraging multilateral nuclear disarmament the UK Government is embarking on a multi-billion-pound expansion of its nuclear weapons capability while millions of children across the UK are living in poverty and are dependent on food banks for survival.

This is a political choice and Mr McKay and others who either remain silent or condone the actions of a UK Government that persistently ignores the suffering of many of the UK’s most impoverished citizens and is blatantly hostile to refugees, and immigrants in general, while furtively enriching a select group of Conservative Party donors and establishment cronies, should hang their heads in shame.

Stan Grodynsk, Longniddry.

* DREW Allan’s article “When is an insult beyond the pale?” (The Herald, June 5) got me thinking about how far I can go in condemning this Conservative Government.

I suspect that many find it difficult to remember a government which so offends our deepest values, our very sense of decency, as this one does.

That profound sense of offence is justified by the consequences, in terms of lives lost, of the shocking cut in overseas aid. However, less publicised was the High Court’s damning judgement that the detention of asylum seekers in the Napier Barracks was “unlawful”. The accommodation was poorly ventilated, a fire risk and overcrowded. The Home Secretary risked lives by her wilful failure to follow Public Health England advice.

Compare that with the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland’s decision to urge the UK Government “to reverse its policies regarding migrants crossing the English Channel” and “the accommodation of asylum seekers in former Army camps”.

I tried to think of (acceptable) words sufficient to express my resolute disapproval of this Government. But eventually I decided that there is nothing more effective than a straightforward statement of the facts, leaving it to your readers’ humanity to come to a principled conclusion.

John Milne, Uddingston.


THE desire of Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison to have a collaborative approach to eradicating poverty and particularly child poverty ("SNP in commitment to ‘eradicate poverty’ despite worries over child targets", The Herald, June 8, and Letters, June 8) is admirable. May I suggest that a significant first step would be to restore the £1.4 billion that her party has removed from local authorities over the past decade.

I can assure her that we will use the money collaboratively, utilising our unique local knowledge to target the cash to local priority areas that we know will make a real difference to poverty in our communities. Just as it would have done if it hadn't been removed in the first place.

Alex Gallagher, Labour Councillor, Largs.


IT was striking to note the figures from EY highlighting that in 2020 Scotland was the most attractive location outside London for foreign direct investment (FDI), accounting to 11 per cent of UK projects, up from 9% in 2019 ("Scotland enjoys FDI success", The Herald, June 7).

EY reported 107 FDI projects in Scotland in 2020, an increase of 6% compared with the previous year. That success contrasts with declines in investment of 12% for the UK as a whole and 13% across Europe. The survey ranked Edinburgh as the UK’s top city outside London for FDI.

Scotland’s impressive performance came in the face of the global Covid-19 pandemic and it comes in the face of opinion poll after opinion poll showing that a majority of those in Scotland would support independence, putting paid to the myth that independence will "frighten off" investors.

Scotland is bucking the investment trends, none of them a result of remaining in the UK, highlighted by Scottish Enterprise as being down to the quality of our workforce as well as a competitive cost base, world-class universities and a supportive business environment.

While “Project Fear” is alive and well with many of those opposing independence, it is simply not borne out by the facts.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh.


THE rumbling in the background for indyref2 continues, but have events not overtaken its relevance?

There is a new world order coming and small countries will be ever more vulnerable. What if the pandemic actually did start with genetic engineering in a laboratory? What about the very present danger of cyberwarfare? What about the exponential increases in artificial intelligence capabilities in large countries with the infrastructure plus the technology? In this scenario a new small country would be a sitting duck.

Our current United Kingdom is at least equipped to a certain extent against both cyberwarfare and biological warfare, Scotland on its own is not. A fractious Europe offers little comfort either. The nationalist movement had its origins and its ethos in the last century. It is time to view the world as it really is now, not then.

Dr Gerald Edwards, Glasgow.


THE Lord Advocate told the Scottish Parliament in February that there would be a judge-led inquiry into the prosecution of David Whitehouse and Paul Clark, who were paid £20 million out of public funds. Now he has apologised to two others, Charles Green and Imran Ahmad, who “should never have been prosecuted”, but none of these prosecutions took place “on his watch”. The previous Justice Secretary did not make any comment. On May 19, I asked the new Justice Secretary if he intended to institute such an inquiry. He has not replied.

The public are entitled to know why these prosecutions took place when the evidence seems to have been insufficient, who in the Crown Office made the decisions (and who were not involved) and what steps have been, or will be, put in place to ensure that there is no recurrence. The figure for compensation will rise and yet the Government seems slow to make any comment. This is unacceptable.

Douglas J Cusine, Stonehaven.


THE Parole Board's decision to release Colin Pitchfork ("Anger as Parole Board says double child killer is now suitable for release", The Herald, June 8) has been challenged by Tory MP Alberto Costa, who said: "It would be immoral, wrong and frankly dangerous to release this disgraceful murderer of two children." Has Mr Costa met Colin Pitchfork or read his parole dossier or is this simply a reactionary, ill-informed, knee-jerk response?

Cathy Baird, Dunipace.

Read more: Shame on the Home Office for failing to meet basic needs of asylum seekers