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Moray's SNP MSP Richard Lochhead disappointed as Conservative MP Douglas Ross backs "shameful" cuts to foreign aid

By Jonathan Clark

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MORAY'S SNP MSP Richard Lochhead has expressed his disappointment after the area's Conservative MP Douglas Ross voted to cut the United Kingdom's international aid budget.

However, while Mr Ross admitted his decision was "difficult" he insisted the focus must be on protecting the economy, jobs and services across the UK.

At Westminster on Tuesday, Mr Ross voted in favour the cuts, which will see the annual foreign aid budget reduced by around £4 billion from 0.7 per cent of national income to 0.5 per cent.

International aid spending had been at 0.7 per cent since 2015 and the Conservative's 2019 manifesto promised it would remain the same.

All six of Scotland's Conservative MPs voted in favour of the cuts, but Ruth Davidson, former leader of the party in Scotland, was one of a number of high profile Tories to come out against them.

She tweeted that the cuts were a "bloody disgrace" and joined former prime ministers Theresa May, John Major and David Cameron in opposition.

Moray's SNP MSP Richard Lochhead also described the decision as "disgraceful".

Richard Lochhead, pictured ahead of the 2021 Scottish elections...Picture: Becky Saunderson..
Richard Lochhead, pictured ahead of the 2021 Scottish elections...Picture: Becky Saunderson..

He said: "It is completely shameful that Boris Johnson’s Tory Government is pressing ahead with devastating cuts to international aid in the middle of a global pandemic, and I can’t express how disappointed I am that Moray’s MP has backed these disgraceful cuts.

“Not only has the Tory Government broken its own manifesto commitments, and the UK’s moral responsibilities, but they are willingly going down a road that they know will cost lives across the world.

“We find ourselves with a morally bankrupt, populist UK Government that plans to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on a new national yacht that no one wants and at the same time is cutting international aid.

“In recent days we have seen former Tory Prime Ministers including John Major and David Cameron speaking out against these cuts, and the Church of Scotland has described this decision as a moral failure.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, international aid to support the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people is needed more than ever. That the Tory government is slashing international aid at a time of global crisis is quite simply morally reprehensible.

“I’m deeply saddened that instead of choosing to do what is right, our local MP has toed the line and backed these heartless cuts.”

While admitting he "reluctantly" voted in favour of the cuts, Douglas Ross said he did so to protect the UK's interests closer to home.

Douglas Ross...Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Douglas Ross...Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

He said: "This was a very difficult decision, but as we continue to fight the global pandemic and the looming economic crisis is clear for all to see, I reluctantly voted for this temporary reduction in our International Aid budget so we could direct resources to protect services and jobs in the UK.

“Even with this 0.2 per cent reduction, the United Kingdom is still spending over £10 billion this year in international aid, one of the largest amounts in the world. On top of this we are supporting countries with their crucial vaccine rollout.

“These difficult choices have to be made during times of crisis, but I hope as we focus on our economy going forward we will see the criteria met to once again raise the spending we allocate to international aid to back up to the previous level.”

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