THE UK Government’s “reckless” and “cruel” cuts to international aid have faced fresh criticism on the one-year anniversary of the Commons vote which slashed almost £4 billion from the budget.

In July 2021, MPs voted by a majority of 35 to keep the budget for international development at 0.5% of the national income, despite a commitment in the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto to increase it to 0.7%.

Speaking at the time, Prime Minister Boris Johnson argued that the cuts were necessary to keep down public debt during the Covid-19 pandemic and "shelter our people from an economic hurricane never before experienced in living memory".

Speaking on the anniversary of the vote, SNP international development spokesperson Chris Law commented: “We are one year on from the reckless vote to slash the aid budget by a staggering £4 billion and it is vulnerable communities and people that have paid a heavy price.

“Rather than stepping up on the world stage and supporting those in need at a critical time, the UK Government shamefully abandoned them.

“The Tory government has cut health and medical funding during a global pandemic. It has cut food programmes during a looming global food security crisis. It has cut environmental projects in the midst of a climate crisis. And it has cut conflict-resolution projects at a time of renewed war. Those deep cuts have likely cost lives.”

Law added that it was “vital” the UK reinstates the aid budget to 0.7% of GNI.

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Further criticism came from Green MSP Maggie Chapman, who told The National: "This was a cruel decision that has had a brutal impact. Millions of people in the global south are still waiting on their first vaccine while the effects of war and climate change are ravaging communities and forcing millions to flee their homes. The result and legacy of this cut will be felt for years to come by many people in desperate situations.

"It is part of a shameful and reactionary Tory policy that punishes and demonises migrant communities in the UK while ignoring the rights and wellbeing of millions of vulnerable people across the world. Covid has shown how interconnected our lives are and should have led to a major rethink of the UK’s role on the world stage rather than being used as an excuse to cut aid to people at risk."

Dan Willis, aid campaigner for Global Justice Now, also commented: "The aid budget is a small and imperfect recognition of the UK’s historic responsibility to countries and continents it has colonised, and it continues to be worth fighting for. But UK aid should not be a tool for the imperial nostalgia of ‘Global Britain’. It should be about redistributing wealth and resources to tackle international challenges like climate breakdown, inequality and Covid-19.

“This past year has been a damning indictment of Liz Truss and her predecessors. The effectiveness and transparency of UK aid have been declining for years, but Truss’ cuts and paper-thin development strategy are the final nails in the coffin. Aid spending is shrouded in secrecy and it's only set to become less transparent from here on out.

“Diverting aid to private contractors and counting spare vaccines as aid shows just how misguided the UK’s approach to development has become.”