THE Scots charity head who helped write the Tory aid policy has accused the Government of “an attack on aid”.

Alistair Dutton, leader of the ­Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (Sciaf) joined Bob Geldof and Professor Chris Whitty on the ­apolitical ­globalisation and global poverty group which reported to ­David ­Cameron in 2007.

The move came as the Labour government enshrined minimum aid spending limits in law and Cameron’s Conservatives positioned themselves as an outward-looking party of leadership. The group’s work has been the basis of Tory policy ever since.

Dutton says Rishi Sunak’s swingeing cuts to the overseas aid budget mean Boris Johnson’s Tory Government has now “ripped it up”. “Cuts are being made quickly and disastrously.

“We are in the midst of an attack on aid.”

The National:

The UK Government wants to reduce its international aid budget by around £4 billion in 2021-22, taking it under the UN target of spending 0.7% of national income on foreign aid. That figure is written into domestic law but no legislation has yet been brought forwards to amend this.

And few details have been published about what will be cut and when.

It is known that Yemen – where 29 million people have suffered the world’s worst cholera outbreak and malnutrition is rife amidst six years of conflict fuelled by British-made weaponry – will have its funding cut in half from £164 million to £87m.

Arms exports to Saudi Arabia, accused of war crimes in Yemen, worth £1.39bn were authorised from July to September alone. Of that, £1.36bn covered the category including missiles and bombs.

Meanwhile, a leaked document suggests officials may slash aid to Syria by 67% and Lebanon by 88%, with cuts of around 60% to Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Transparency is so bad that 100 charities including Oxfam, Sciaf and more have written to Johnson condemning the move to break a manifesto commitment and warning that the cuts will contravene the law if they’re taken without parliamentary approval.

WATCH: Lesley Riddoch: Why we must pay attention as UK slashes aid to Yemen

That letter comes after the Government turned down a Freedom of Information request about the finance changes. It could not provide information about the £2.9bn cut made to aid agency umbrella body Bond in July last year due to “commercial interest”.

Simon Starling, policy director at Bond, said that the decision was “unfathomable”.

In an interview with the Sunday National, Dutton compared it to the failure of Matt Hancock to disclose PPE contracts, something which was found unlawful by the High Court. He said what information there is comes from within the aid network as organisations share news of phone calls saying they’ll be subject to funding reductions of “50-100% from April 1”.

Dutton said: “We can’t find out how these cuts will be implemented and the Government is refusing to release any figures of what cuts will be made by and when and upon whom.

“Day in, day out, we hear Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab talking about ‘global Britain’. This is ‘little England’. It’s completely introspective, narcissistic, self-obsessed.

“We keep hearing that we can’t afford it. That’s patently not true, Rishi Sunak and the Government are choosing not to afford it. They announced the aid cut to 0.5% and an increase of £16.5bn on defence spending. That is a decision made in the cold light of day to take money away from the poorest people in the world.”

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Alexandra Angulo, executive director of Edinburgh-based Mercy Corps, is amongst the leaders waiting to know what will happen to their programmes. It has around 6000 workers in more than 40 countries, with a focus on “fragile states” like Yemen, Nigeria and South Sudan – all places where the axe is likely to fall.

She said: “Our staff are concerned. One of our main partners is the UK Government. We have always been really proud of the work that we have been able to do with them.

“There was a sense that the UK was going to lead the way and therefore we were going to have real opportunities to engage to drive a lot of the priorities for fragile states.

“We feel like we are going back.”

She went on: “We have really key and complex programmes where we don’t know if we are going to have [a] budget by the end of the month.

“The hunger that we are seeing, the fact that so many children are facing malnutrition ... The FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] appointed a UK envoy on famine. It’s really hard to reconcile that with the cuts in general, but in particular for Yemen. You just can’t understand the logic.”

The National:

The UK Government said it “remains steadfast in our support to the Yemeni people as one of the biggest donors of lifesaving aid and through our diplomatic efforts to bring peace”.

A spokesperson went on: “The Government is acting compatibly with the International Development Act 2015, which explicitly envisages that there may be circumstances where the 0.7% target is not met. We take our obligations very seriously and will set out more details on the next steps in due course.”

But Steve Claborne, Mercy Corps’ country director for Yemen, told this newspaper: “Without access to employment, schooling or medical care, this year 2.3 million children – nearly half of the country’s children under the age of five – will suffer from acute malnutrition. The most vulnerable, marginalised human beings on the planet will pay the price for the decision the UK has made to cut aid.”

SNP international development spokesperson Chris Law MP has called the Government’s actions “callous to the core”. He said: “The reality is that the UK Government is literally gambling with people’s lives.

“At a time when developing or war-torn countries face a disproportionate hit from the coronavirus pandemic, cutting humanitarian aid efforts is not just a shameful step, it is a permanent mark of stain on the UK’s record.

“With the UK Government happy to approve billions of pounds worth of arms exports, its cut to aid confirms that the UK is a player for profits – not peace.

The National:

“The UK Government must wake up to the reality of what these death sentence cuts will mean for millions of men, women and children in these countries and U-turn without delay.”

Angulo believes there is some hope for this due to the disquiet from both opposition and Government benches.

Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell has said the plan is likely to be defeated in a Commons vote.

Angulo said: “There are people in Parliament from all parties who are against these cuts.

“It’s the short-termism of this. Covid has exacerbated the poverty and inequality. That in itself is a driver for conflict and migration.

“We know that Covid is something we cannot address individually. We need to see it as a global effort.”

You can give to Sciaf's Wee Box appeal here.

You can give to the Move for Mercy Corps appeal here.