LAST week, Boris Johnson announced that spending on defence will increase by £4bn a year to make the UK the ‘foremost naval power in Europe’.

Two days ago, Rishi Sunak announced that the UK’s spending on international development will be cut by £4bn a year. That is a disgrace, and it shows only too clearly the meanness at the heart of this Conservative government at Westminster.

As Isobel Lindsay, Dr R M Morris and Gerard McCulloch observed (letters, November 23), there is absolutely no sense in the decision to spend billions on an even bigger navy, already top-heavy with two grandiose aircraft carriers and their eye-wateringly expensive jets.

Who is going to be the target of our gunboat diplomacy? Are we going to tell China that she must accept the import of more British goods, as we did in the 19th century, when we forced the Emperor to allow our merchants to sell his subjects Indian opium? Good luck, Mr Johnson, if that’s your plan.

There is no defence justification for this extra spending. It’s just posturing by the Prime Minister, who clearly sees himself in the mould of Churchill and now as a latter-day Horatio Nelson. His foolish vanity would be laughable if it wasn’t for the consequential cut to the international development budget, which is both shocking and destructive.

There’s a clear moral imperative for wealthy countries to assist those in need in poorer nations, but overseas aid isn’t just about altruism. It’s in our own interests to assist less advanced economies along the path of development.

As countries develop, they trade more, and that helps our industries to export; they can be helped to develop in ways that protect the environment, and that is hugely beneficial to the fight against climate change; and they can provide more and better jobs for their own citizens, which reduces the sad and often tragic flow of migrants to our shores.

It was Mr Sunak who announced the cut to development funding, but I suspect he was only following orders; as if that’s an excuse. Johnson got rid of his first Chancellor, Sajid Javid, who was prepared to stand up to him. I can’t see Sunak doing that. It’s clear the blame for this immoral and reprehensible decision rests squarely with the Prime Minister. Shame on you, Mr Johnson.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.

THE Chancellor has announced that the foreign aid budget will be slashed and legislation will be introduced to reduce the budget for several years, or even permanently.

For decades, large parts of the foreign aid budget has been squandered in countries that hate us and in countries where the rulers have diverted it to their Swiss bank accounts. China and India have space programmes, so why are we giving them foreign aid?

China has just launched a mission to the moon to bring back lunar samples. China, the world’s second biggest economy, was given £81 million of UK taxpayers’ cash. It was even given money for flood prevention, yet UK towns and cities suffered one of the worst years of flooding on record because budget restrictions meant that flood defences were not built and rivers were not dredged nor drains kept clear.

Reducing foreign aid is a good first step: reducing the vast number of civil servants and departments involved in giving away our money should be the next step.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow.

AGAIN, Nicola Sturgeon moves into mock-indignation mode by describing the £4 billion cut to Britain’s foreign aid budget as “disgraceful”.

There is nothing in the Chancellor’s move to suggest that poor people abroad will be denied any less help than they are getting now, but what we have seen in the past is foreign aid money being thrown about like confetti to beat financial deadlines.

Should we be giving aid to countries like China and India, who can afford their own space programmes and therefore must have plenty of money to look after their own populations? Should we give money to African despots to buy themselves BMWs?

Foreign aid is essential but should be targeted at countries who need it most to improve their people’s lives and help out in natural disaster situations. With Britons using food banks more than ever, and the UK remaining one of the world’s largest contributors in foreign aid, perhaps the Chancellor’s measures should be seen as trying to create a more equitable balance in the use of taxpayers’ money.

Britons living in poverty, including those in Ms Sturgeon’s constituency, should not be forgotten in the altruistic pursuit of saving the world.

Bob MacDougall, Kippen.

THE British public is known for its generosity. So why would it baulk at donating 0.7% of gross national income to poorer areas of the world, where this type of donation can bring so many positive benefits?

Perhaps the answer lies in the scare stories, which have come up regularly. They suggest that much of that money is going to the wrong places, in a concerted effort in some quarters to persuade the public that that money would be better spent at home instead of being squandered abroad. Once such a narrative has been established, the public is likely to lose its confidence in the foreign aid budget.

Those who examine the good that our foreign aid budget does in poor areas abroad, and the merit it brings to Britain’s reputation, would not see this type of aid as wasteful.

If we want to talk about squandering of public money, we need look no further than the careless regard for public expenditure within our own confines. Of course, our GNI will be heavily depleted as a result of the ravages of Covid and the rise in unemployment consequent upon the virus and the hit to our economy thanks to Brexit, whether we have a deal or leave without one.

Despite such a dent in our national finances, Britain will not be a poor country: 0.7 per cent will still be affordable but will be less in monetary terms than it would be if our economy were booming. We should not be taken in by the scare stories and we should be aware that when a government says a reduction would be a temporary measure, it very often becomes permanent.

I do not take any comfort from the government’s declaration that even a reduction in foreign aid to 0.5 per cent would still be more generous a contribution than any other nation’s. No matter how this is dressed up, it still looks like a penny-pinching exercise, which does not sit well with our reputation as a generous nation.

Denis Bruce, Bishopbriggs.

IT was interesting to note that luxury car dealer, Cambria Automobiles, had made a profit of just over £11 million, whilst putting 80% of its staff on furlough (“Covid-19 puts breaks on luxury car sales but Cambria says resilience remains”, November 26).

Given the grim economic forecast from the Chancellor and the impact of tax and spending decisions, would it not be appropriate for every company that has made a profit during the pandemic to pay back furlough assistance it has received, to help address the difficult financial times ahead?

Bill Eadie, Glasgow.

RISHI Sunak has pledged a £500 million package to support mental health services, and has outlined plans to tackle the backlog of adult mental health referrals after increased demand for support during the pandemic.

The funding is recognition of the immense strain the pandemic has placed on people’s mental health, in the same way it has devastated many livelihoods and businesses.

However, funding is just the first step. We must now consider how the money is best distributed, especially as we don’t fully understand the long term neuropsychiatric impact of Covid.

This funding will be stretched – preliminary studies suggest that those who have had coronavirus could be at a higher risk of developing psychiatric disorders, and the strain on frontline staff and families who have been bereaved is clear. What is absolutely crucial is that part of the funding is deployed to tackle the backlog of adult mental health referrals.

At Clinical Partners, we have witnessed a surge in demand from people who are unable to access services through the NHS, particularly in terms of diagnostic support and forward treatment. We need tight performance management in place, so organisations that receive funding are clear about how they will address the backlog, so we ensure that the right support is reaching the people who need it.

While we still need more detail about how exactly the money will be spent, I would urge that a proportion is ringfenced for Covid-specific work. We need significant investment in data collection so that we can begin deriving insight and learnings as quickly as possible, in the same way we have invested in research into the physical effects.”

Alice Parshall, Medical Director, Clinical Partners, London.

WHO makes up the figures? Does Rishi Sunak actually believe what he forecasts? If he does, he is the only one.

Covid has had a devastating effect on all aspects of our lives; many are out of work, redundancy looms for others, household incomes have shrunk. Unfortunately, the country is facing another six months of Covid and that is only if the vaccines are approved and rolled out with speed.

This uncertainly and crisis for many is only exacerbated by the uncertainty of Brexit – no deal, negotiations failing on an almost daily basis, and surprisingly no word of comfort in the Spending Review from Sunak.

He was conspicuous by his silence on this issue, with only thirty six days until we exit the EU trade negotiations.

The country is being affectively hung out to dry by the Conservative Government on this issue, leaving businesses in turmoil and crisis.

The Chancellor’s omission does not sit comfortably with his commitment to save jobs. Scotland voted to remain in the EU. Surely that says it all.

Catriona C Clark, Banknock, Falkirk.