Interesting (development) times in Scotland

Source: First Minister's message of support for #IF by Scottish Government, Flickr (2013).
Source: First Minister’s message of support for #IF by Scottish Government, Flickr (2013).

Recent meetings in Edinburgh (part of the IF Campaign) and elsewhere have highlighted the fact that issues such as ensuring a legal commitment to 0.7% of GNI as aid; climate justice and fair trade have become part of the debate on whether Scotland becomes an independent nation following the referendum scheduled for September 2014. In responding to reports that the UK Government is considering spending international aid money on overseas military interventions, Scotland’s External Affairs and International Development Minister Humza Yousaf has argued:

‘This seems to be a cynical move by the UK Government to wriggle out of its promises to the world’s poorest – the promise to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on aid – a UN target the UK has delayed meeting for more than 42 years. Aid budgets should be spent on international development – on schools not soldiers, on food not firearms. These funds must be targeted at the world’s poorest people.’

At the recent international development IF conference in Edinburgh on May 17th, Yousaf committed an independent Scotland to enshrining the UN agreed aid target of 0.7% in law; in criticising the UK government he pointedly noted:

‘It is hard to quantify the precise difference that the UK’s missing aid would have made to the world’s poorest, but there can be no doubt it would have make a positive difference and would have saved and improved lives. An independent Scotland will not make the same mistake.’

This follows on from the Scottish Government’s creation of a Climate Justice Fund launched in May 2012 when First Minister Alex Salmond supported by Ireland’s Mary Robinson argued:

‘The huge injustice of climate change is that it is those who have done the least to cause the problem – the most vulnerable from the world’s poorest communities – who are hardest hit by it. That is why Scotland is committed to supporting climate justice and why we are launching Scotland’s Climate Justice Fund.’

This followed what is thought to have been the first parliamentary debate in the Scottish Parliament in March 2012.

Earlier in October 2011, Salmond had been presented with the third South Australia International Climate Change Award for demonstrating ‘leadership and courage’ on the issue (an independent Scotland would commit itself to reducing emissions by 42% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050).

After 18 of its 32 local councils, 6 major cities and over 60 towns, almost two-thirds of all higher education institutions and 171 schools had achieved fair trade status, Scotland became one of the world’s first Fair Trade Nations (Wales was the first in 2008).

The Scottish Government’s 5 page international development policy can be reviewed here. Following the aims and objectives of the policy eight key values and principles are presented, set to guide the development policy in practice. The values and principles provide an insight into what are the key justifications for its policy intentions and are worth looking at in ‘the Government’s own words’:


  • To enhance Scotland’s contribution to the global fight against poverty through activity which is clearly designed to support the achievement of the MDGs and economic growth in developing countries.
  • To demonstrate Scotland’s commitment to play its role in addressing the challenges faced by the developing world, recognising Scotland’s identity as a responsible nation.


  • The needs and priorities of developing countries are paramount. Inevitably, Scotland will learn and benefit from the experience of working in partnership with developing countries, but these benefits will not detract from the development strategies and priorities identified by developing countries.
  • We will focus our efforts to make the best use of limited resources and ensure we make a sustained and measurable difference. We are alert to the tension between developing a wider programme alongside a deeper and more focused engagement.
  • The Scottish Government is committed to continuing to work with Malawi based on the unique and historical relationship between our two countries. We have confirmed our commitment to honour the Co-operation Agreement ring fencing at least £3 million per annum to support this, within this spending review period. The Scottish Government will continue to work with the Government of Malawi to develop a focused programme of engagement and will continue to review and monitor progress through the Joint Commission process, a mechanism which is strongly supported by the Government of Malawi.
  • The policy will encourage the consideration and adoption of best practice in development with an emphasis on country-led identification of need, organisational and institutional capacity building and community-led development. For example, the sharing of knowledge and transfer of skills, the training of trainers and responding to the developing countries’ assessment of how we might best support development. The Scottish Government will also look to the development sector in Scotland, through the Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland (NIDOS), for their input regarding their experience of operating different models of development in their countries of operation.
  • The policy, and more detailed funding guidance, will take due consideration of the impacts of climate change on the developing world.
  • The policy will complement the work of others and not duplicate effort or undermine existing initiatives or government policy. Although international development is a reserved issue under the Scotland Act (1998), the Scottish Government is operating in accordance with the Act by “assisting the Crown in relation to foreign affairs” and will continue to ensure that the policy is developed within those given powers.
  • The Scottish Government will continue to support Scotland becoming a Fair Trade Nation through its support of the Scottish Fairtrade Forum.
  • Scottish Ministers have increased the International Development Fund within the life of this Parliament, to support the delivery of this policy with a commitment to the operation of transparent and accountable funding processes. The policy will adopt a deeper and more focused approach to the delivery of the policy, continuing to work through organisations in Scotland, based on the development strategies and priorities of developing countries. Whilst the Scottish Government recognises that working through organisations in Scotland may limit the range of work which can be funded, this model is essential to ensure that the Scottish Government is focusing its efforts and working to the stated policy aim of enhancing Scotland’s contribution to international development.

While it is early days yet and the referendum has yet to be held, international development and justice issues have become part of the debate and it will be interesting to watch the tenor and shape of the debate as it gets closer to referendum time. has been speaking with Scotland’s young and opinionated Minister for External Affairs and International Development and will post a video interview soon.