Now that would be a debate worth having. The White Paper, Scotland's Future (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/11/9348/0) has a great deal to say about Scotland’s potential status in the world (European Union; NATO; UN), but very little about her contribution to the world. For example, virtually nothing substantial has been said about the impact on International Development. The Minister for External Affairs. Humza Yasouf, is on record as saying that an independent Scotland will increase its International Development Fund from around £9m at present to hundreds of millions and that Scotland’s aspiration would be to surpass a target of 0.7% of national income and aim for 1%. Indeed, there is a commitment to enshrine the 0.7% target in legislation post independence.(see evidence in Select Committee Report)
This leap over logic completely ignores the fact that Scotland already contributes nearly £1billion to the UK overseas development total of £10.7billion. Scots do this through their contribution to the UK tax take.
Should Scotland become independent it will in all probability have an international development budget of ‘hundreds of millions’ because it will have access to the tax take that previously contributed to the UK. This will depend on the political priorities of a Scottish Government, and, crucially, the resources available to it, but there will be a loss of the economy of scale of UK Aid in all the bilateral projects. The Paris Principles and Accra Declaration on Aid Effectiveness point out the problem which many developing countries have in dealing with dozens of small donor countries because the cost for the aid recipient begins to outweigh the value of the aid. When it comes to the multilateral projects through Europe, World Bank; UN; G8 etc they will not have the benefit of the UK’s considerable influence and experience in shaping and delivering programmes.
A very important but separate issue is the impact that independence would have on the 500 plus DFID jobs currently located in East Kilbride. These people get up in the morning, go to work and make a real difference in the world. Just as with the debate on defence, there would be no simple transfer of Scottish based jobs or services to a Scottish Government. These jobs serve the whole DFID operation and there would have to be a disentanglement of the whole operation. A continuing UK DFID would not locate a third of its staff in another country. Again, the SNP's answer to this is to suggest negotiated co-operation with the remaining UK Government to share DFID programmes, staff and premises. Why would a UK Government choose to leave 500 plus highly skilled important civil service jobs located in what would be a foreign country? Again see the International Development Select Committee Report
The SNP like to paint a picture of an independent Scotland where, free from the shackles of the UK, Scotland can pursue its natural preference for progressive politics. Scotland doesn’t need to look to an independent future to achieve a progressive contribution to international development. We can be proud of our progressive record to date as part of the UK. Labour UK Governments appointed the first Minister of Overseas Development, established DFID with a Secretary of State in the cabinet; doubled the aid budget; secured debt relief; set in place the 0.7% target of national income by 2013; and in 2013 the Coalition were able to announce that the target had been reached. Leading figures on that path have included many Scottish MPs – Judith Hart; Tom Clarke; George Foulkes; Douglas Alexander, Gordon Brown and currently Jim Murphy. The withdrawal of all Scottish MPs from Westminster would put at risk a progressive majority in the remaining UK supportive of keeping international development high on the political agenda. If the Tories were to lead the next UK Government, their fragile commitment to the 0.7% target would be vulnerable to the necessary rethink that would be required to reconfigure the DFID programme to reduce the budget by approximately 10% (the current Scottish contribution).
Labour’s record and commitment to maintaining and developing our international development goals are proven. The return of a UK Labour Government in 2015 would provide the opportunity for progressive post 2015 international development goals to be pursued and achieved. Why put this at risk by going down the unmarked road of Scottish Independence?