Scotland's Role In Nepal Aid Hailed

20 July 2015, 08:05 | Updated: 20 July 2015, 08:08

Scotland has been hailed for playing a "disproportionately large part'' in the UK's international aid effort.

International Development Minister Desmond Swayne claimed Scotland - where the Department for International Development employs 600 people at its East Kilbride office - is at the "very heart'' of work to help some of the poorest people around the globe.

He was speaking ahead of a visit to Edinburgh to meet volunteers who provided emergency assistance earlier this year when Nepal was hit by a massive earthquake.

The disaster killed almost 9,000 people and left around 900,000 homes damaged or destroyed.

Mr Swayne will meet a doctor and a firefighter who were deployed to Nepal after the earthquake in April, as well as a charity worker with Mercy Corps who helped co-ordinate the relief effort.

The minister hailed the "hundreds of aid workers, of firefighters, of medics'' from Scotland who helped out in the aftermath of the earthquake, and other disasters.

He also highlighted the effort of Scottish charities "who spearheaded the relief effort'' in Nepal, and after the Ebola outbreak in Africa.

"Scotland is integral to everything we do,'' Mr Swayne said.

"We wield enormous influence in this very important agenda to the world here and now, and Scotland is at the very heart of that.''

He also highlighted the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh a decade ago as being key in giving the UK "real authority'' with its aid work.

More than 225,000 people took to the streets of Edinburgh to call on world leaders to act as the G8 summit was held at Gleneagles in July 2005.

The talks resulted in aid to Africa being doubled, with an agreement also reached to eliminate the outstanding debts of the world's poorest countries.

Mr Swayne said international development is an issue where the UK "wields real authority, and disproportionate influence''.

He added: "How has that come about? I trace it to 10 years ago, all those people on the streets of Edinburgh, 250,000 people, demanding that poverty be made history.

"Within days at Gleneagles, the G8 had agreed to implement the 0.7% target. And we took that seriously, it wasn't just lip service.''

Legislation passed by Westminster earlier this year ties the UK to spending 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on overseas aid.

Mr Swayne said: "This is the only country, the United Kingdom, which is spending 0.7% on overseas development aid and 2% on defence, so we are keeping people safe here and saving lives overseas.''

He said making a legal commitment on aid spending had been "an important signal to the rest of the world''.

He added: "Saving lives is an important agenda throughout the world, it's our investment in a safer, more stable world.''

Referring to the thousands of migrants who are fleeing northern Africa for Europe, he said: "We see the tide of population attempting to get across the Mediterranean. The only way to stem that flow is to invest in the unstable and poor countries they're fleeing from if we're to have any stability in the future.

"And look at it this way - we're spending 0.7% on our national income on international development aid, that means we have 99.3% to spend on ourselves.''

Mr Swayne will meet a number of aid workers and volunteers when he visits Mercy Corps in Edinburgh later, including consultant obstetrician Paul Holmes, from Falkirk, who went to Nepal as part of the UK Emergency Medical Team.

The minister will also meet firefighter Martyn Ferguson, from Turriff in Aberdeenshire, who was part of the 60-strong UK International Search and Rescue Team.