THE Scottish Government has pledged an extra £250,000 in humanitarian aid to provide critical help for the people of Afghanistan, Holyrood has heard.

The announcement came during a debate on how Scotland can support the people of Afghanistan which was held in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

The motion was lodged by SNP MSP Angus Robertson, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture.

The almost two-hour long discussion covered topics from the UK Government’s cut of international aid, harrowing stories from MSPs of the experiences of their constituents families in the country since the Taliban take over, and a scathing assessment of the UK Nationality and Borders Bill - which would criminalise any Afghan refugees who try to reach the UK via the channel crossing.

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MSPs also highlighted the impact of Taliban rule on women and girls, warning that they must not be “abandoned”.

Robertson also announced that 160 Afghans had already been welcomed to Scotland since June this year.

The Cabinet Secretary opened the debate by stating that the human rights situation in Afghanistan was “extremely worrying” and that the number of refugees the UK Government had committed to take - 5000 in the first year, 20,000 over five years - is “nowhere near enough”.

Robertson set out his opposition to the Nationality and Borders Bill and said that those seeking sanctuary in the UK “must be treated with dignity and respect at all times”.

He said: “We’ve heard this week that hundreds of people eligible for relocation remain in Afghanistan.

Robertson gave an update to parliament on the number of Afghan refugees in Scotland

“The UK Government is speaking with dual nationals as if they were second class citizens, and have said any Afghans who flee to neighbouring countries and later make perilous journey via the channel for a better life would be still be subject to the government’s crackdown on boat crossings - as if the people of Afghanistan had not suffered enough.”

Robertson also said that the Scottish Government support for Afghan refugees is “significant”.

He continued: “That's why I would like to announce to parliament that the Scottish Government has made £250,000 available from an emergency humanitarian fund to provide critical help to the people of Afghanistan.

“This is additional to the financial commitment the Scottish people have already made to the UK’s aid budget through taxed contributions.”

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The motion condemned the UK Government’s cut to international aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP, and MSPs in the chamber were also quick to criticise the move.

Kaukab Stewart, SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, said: “Worryingly, the ideological war raged by the Conservative party has left the current UK aid budget ill prepared for the current pressure it faces. Even overseas development and aid programmes focussing on the education and health of women and girls has been cut.”

The plight of women and girls in Afghanistan played a large part in the debate, with Tory MSP Pam Gosal giving an impassioned speech on the impact of Taliban rule.

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SNP MSP Kaukab Stewart hit out at the UK's cut to international aid

Explaining that the Taliban “have not changed” and that “things will go backwards”, Gosal added: “The daughters of Afghanistan will be punished by the Taliban, make no mistake of that.”

Bob Doris, SNP MSP for Maryhill and Springburn, also told a harrowing tale relating to the family of one of his constituents, who were forced to go into hiding from the Taliban after unsuccessful attempts to escape the country.

Doris said that it would be an “outrage” to see families like these criminalised by the Nationalisty and Borders Bill, and called for further funding for integration networks who support refugees in Scotland.

He said: “As a parliament we should come together to do all we can to make as many people a new life in Scotland, one that is free and can realise their dreams and aspirations so cruelly snatched from them in Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, Maggie Chapman, Greens MSP for the North East, called the 20,000 refugees the UK Government has committed to take “pathetic” and said more must be done.

Chapman said: “We must stand up and recognise our role in creating this crisis and accept and act on our responsibility to Afghan’s fleeing conflict and prosecution.

Chapman railed against the UK Government's cut to international aid

“The UK Government’s cut to the aid budget means we are failing in our duty to those in need around the world, but especially it is disgraceful when considering the reliance of those seeking refuge in refugee camps and elsewhere, and those internally displaced relying on international aid.”

There were also calls from Robertson for all parties to pledge a commitment to Afghans who are already in the UK will not be returned to a Taliban led Afghanistan.

The Greens, LibDems, and Labour all committed to the statement and offered their support.

For the Tories, Jackson Carlaw, MSP for Eastwood, set out the current UK Government guidelines and said: “I don’t feel confident to go beyond that today, but I am prepared to work with the Scottish Government to bottom out what that commitment actually represents.”

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Robertson called on all parties to support indefinite leave to remain for those Afghans already in the UK

The motion passed overall with 93 votes for yes, and 29 votes for no.

There were also a series of amendments lodged. Sarah Boyak for Labour called for recognition of local authorities and other groups involved in resettling and supporting refugees. It was agreed unanimously and passed by the chamber.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton, for the Liberal Democrats, called for the UK Government to expand the number of refugees it was willing to take from Afghanistan. The motion passed with 93 votes for yes, and 29 for no.

Donald Cameron, for the Conservatives, lodged an amendment in support of military personell, laying out the UK Government’s policies on Afghanistan and for the UK Government to reinstate the 0.7% international aid commitment.

There were 93 votes for no, and 29 for yes, therefore the amendment did not pass.