Ben Macpherson, Scotland’s minister for Europe, migration, and international development. Photo from: Ben Macpherson MSP

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Scotland’s international development minister has pushed back against the U.K. government’s national interest agenda in an interview with Devex.

The Conservative government in Westminster has increasingly been promoting the spending of aid “in the national interest” — in ways that benefit British businesses or help to fulfill security goals.

“In terms of policy priority, we are absolutely committed that international development should be [in] the national interests of our partner countries and not in Scotland’s national interest,” said Ben Macpherson, Scotland’s minister for Europe, migration, and international development. The Scottish approach to aid differs “by comparison to some of the messages that have come from the U.K. government,” he added.

The United Kingdom spends roughly £13 billion ($16 billion) of aid each year. As a devolved government, Scotland runs a modest development program of its own, delivering £10 million a year via its International Development Fund to four key partner countries — Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia, and Pakistan — as well as £1 million a year via a Humanitarian Emergency Fund. It also has created a separate Climate Justice Fund

“The U.K. governments’ ... commitment to the 0.7 percent is something we absolutely support, but we as a devolved government we offer something distinctive … Our focus is how we do the most with what we've decided to allocate here in Scotland,” Macpherson said.

That includes a rejection of looking at development work through a trade lens. “We would certainly not want to see a blurring of the lines. We think they're different and we’re very committed to that differentiation,” said Macpherson.

Instead, he said, “the strength of our commitment from a government perspective is that we are absolutely committed to the Beyond Aid agenda and our work is focused on how we strengthen capacity, utilize partnership, work with other people, build ... relationships.”

“[We ask] how does that all come together to deliver the biggest impact for those who need our assistance and how to make that difference for the medium- and long-term as well as in the here and now.”

About the author

  • Rebecca Root

    Rebecca Root is a Reporter and Editorial Associate at Devex producing news stories, video, and podcasts as well as partnership content. She has a background in finance, travel, and global development journalism and has written for a variety of publications while living and working in New York, London, and Barcelona.