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“Separatists” reach out to world

Posted on January 15, 2013 by

The papers this week have been full of stories about the SNP’s plans for foreign aid from an independent Scotland. The Herald led with a story entitled “Yousaf plans £1.5 billion foreign aid budget”, while the Scotsman went for the slightly more inflammatory headline Scottish independence: International aid budget would soar to hundreds of millions’ with the clear implication that this compared to the modest £9 million the devolved Scottish Government currently spends directly on foreign aid.

The headlines were designed to make people think that under independence the Scottish government would be diverting hundreds of millions of pounds away from Scots, increasing our foreign aid over 100-fold. Opposition MSPs claimed such move would mean spending cuts at home or tax rises in order to fund the increased international aid budget.

You need to delve a little deeper into the articles to find the truth.

The crucial fact is that currently, the small budget the Scottish Government spends on aid is in addition to the money we already contribute as part of the UK. At present, the UK spends £8.7 billion on foreign aid and intends to meet the UN target of 0.7% of GDP in 2013, a move which would see the figure increase to £11.3 billion.

Scotland already pays for roughly 8.4% of this budget in line with our population split of the UK. In 2013 that would mean £949 million, to which we can add Holyrood’s own £9m, giving a total Scottish foreign aid budget in 2013 of £958 million. This is what we already spend within the Union, so the Scotsman’s headline is misleading – our aid spending is ALREADY “hundreds of millions”, not about to “soar to” such heights.

Using the last available full sets of figures, Scottish GDP was £149bn in 2011 (including a geographical share of revenue from oil and gas). Using the UN’s aid target figure of 0.7%, independent Scotland would therefore be paying out fractionally over £1bn in foreign aid, an increase of roughly 9% on present levels. But Yousaf also stated that we would try to exceed this minimum UN target by spending 1% of GDP, taking the total to the Herald’s £1.5bn – almost a 50% increase on the present sum.

It sounds like a tough sell, with the Holyrood opposition insisting that we already can’t afford universal services. So why would we want to spend that extra £500m, and more importantly how could we afford to if we did?

Beyond the basic moral imperative to aid those less fortunate than ourselves, Scotland (like any country) will have interests that lie outwith our own borders in an interdependent world. One of the main objectives of foreign policy is to get other nations to adopt your policy goals as their own. There are many benefits to utilising international aid to achieve foreign policy, and they’re typified by the example of Norway (yep, THOSE guys again) and their use of “soft power”.

These programs can often influence without needing a militaristic approach, removing the animosity that military power can create. (And at the same time reducing a state’s military expenditure, freeing more money to pay for the aid.) In order to meet our international goals, an independent Scotland could use its potential in various ways, with power being defined as the ability to influence the behaviour of others to get the outcomes Scotland wants.

There are several ways to affect the behaviour of others.

  • Coerce them with threats.
  • Induce them with payments.
  • Attract or co-opt them.

There are obvious benefits in being able to attract others to your cause, frame the debate and set the agenda when acting in international relations, and “soft power” can achieve that. Skilful leaders have always understood that attractiveness stems from credibility and legitimacy. Power is not the sole preserve of the barrel of a gun; even the most brutal dictators have relied on attraction as well as fear.

For small countries that are by necessity less militaristic, “soft power” can allow them to punch well above their weight. After the Cold War, small states had the opportunity to play a more significant role in international peace diplomacy with the removal of the two superpowers as a prism through which all actions were viewed. This allowed smaller countries to become involved in the resolution of conflicts, an opportunity seized enthusiastically by the Norwegians.

In 1990 Norway became active in the peace process in Guatemala before successfully negotiating the 1993 Oslo Accords (a milestone in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict), and more recently they were active in helping conclude a temporary ceasefire in 2002 in Sri Lanka. These actions put Norway on the map as a successful peace mediator, in which their size was a benefit by removing them as a threat to either side.

By having no perceived great power interests and no means to coerce the parties to a conflict, it made Norway more trusted than larger nations such as the USA or UK. Their intentions being viewed as more legitimate and their involvement non-threatening.

This global brand of trust in the country helps them achieve their own foreign policy goals, by making them an attractive partner to other countries – a stance backed up by their generous foreign aid payments. Norway achieves this worldwide recognition by devoting 1% of its GDP to foreign aid, the same figure the SNP are aspiring to.

We can only hope that an independent Scotland would be as successful in the deployment of “soft power” as Norway has been historically. But one thing seems certain: being a more-trusted, non-threatening and liked global nation means that much less “hard power” is needed.

The SNP’s plans to create a more proportionately-sized post-independence Scottish Defence Force to defend our borders and take part in internationally-sanctioned operations only (rather than aggressive and often unpopular “police actions” like Afghanistan and Iraq) could pay for the increased aid budget with many millions to spare. It seems a profitable goal as well as a noble one.

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41 to ““Separatists” reach out to world”

  1. ianbrotherhood says:

    Hear hear to that.
    Any undecided should read the above, then compare and contrast with the spurious pish we’ve been hearing out of the Commons today. 

  2. Doug Daniel says:

    Excellent article. Incidentally, I think it exposes the true nature of those who shout “solidarity” or “we’re all in this together” when they cry foul at the idea of spending a meagre 1% of GDP on foreign aid.

    UK OK? More like UK OK, Jack. 

  3. Callum says:

    make no mistake, a small nation that has vast resources will definitely punch above its weight.  the Gulf state of Qatar was massively influential in the 2008-2009 Israel peace talks – probably because Israel was relying on the successful outcome to buy 2bn cu metres of gas from Qatar.  In the end the Qataris were not successful (see but still, to get Israelis to sit down at an Arab peace deal was amazing and much more successful than Anthony Blair and co.

  4. pmcrek says:

    Imagine using our ample resources to help others in need and in turn hopefully fostering strong international friendships and opportunity, it doesnt bear thinking about!

  5. Triskelion says:

    That’s the Scotland I want to see!

  6. Dave Smith says:

    Indeed. I want to live in that kind of country; one that reaches out to the world and tries to do genuine good.

  7. Craig Evans says:

    I can only add my voice in support of the ambition voiced by the SNP for Scotland’s future.

    It is a shame that Labour do not share this vision; just check out the remarks in Jim Murphy’s essay on the Labour Uncut website.

    It really makes you proud to be Scottish!!

  8. dcomerf says:

    I think this site has been infected. My kaspersky dealt with a ‘trojan’ when I opened this page. Seems to be called Exploit.JS.Retkid.a

  9. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “I think this site has been infected. My kaspersky dealt with a ‘trojan’ when I opened this page. Seems to be called Exploit.JS.Retkid.a”

    Sucuri SiteCheck says “Verified clean” 10 seconds ago.

  10. Betsy says:

    “…..with the Holyrood opposition insisting that we already can’t afford universal services.”

    Well we simply can’t if Labour want to keep their cronies in the fine style they’ve become accustomed to. And who can blame them when the penalty for such generosity with other people’s money is someone suggesting they might benefit from a training course.

  11. dadsarmy says:

    Good article Rev, I had a vague idea of the political purpose of foreign aid, this puts meat on it.

    Strange; years ago I had a notion that Scotland could be ideally placed as a negotiatior or peacemaker, kind of a national Kissinger, but without the politics. Wherever I went in Europe, and with the Yanks and other nationalities, I found a great deal of respect and liking for Scotland and Scots. I never thought of foreign aid as a vehicle for that peacemaking role. I like it! Mmm, make the peace and put a bit of money in to rebuild and help make the peace stick.

    Back to the debate for the last time, in my disgust at the way ot was carried out by the Unionists, I forgot that this is milestone number 4 on the way to Independence. Number 5 is Holyrood but that’s pretty well a walk in the park. I think the SNP should make some concessions to get concensus – the forces vote seems like a good one.

    And then it’s on the way to number 6: “I am not a number, I am a free man …”.

  12. Ronald Henderson says:

    We would all like to see an independent wealthy Scotland contributing more in foreign aid. But we are fighting for our independence at the moment, and it behoves us to be a little less naive in our statements to the press for they will automatically twist our words to suit their unionist agenda.
    This debate is going to be all about public perception regarding the viability of an independent Scotland. No matter how you look at it, it now appears that we are desperate to start ”scattering money like seed among the poor” before we have even got ourselves organised and everybody in a decent job with a decent standard of living.
    Of course the press was going to present it in that way. Of course they were going to present the SNP Government as being cavalier and spendthrift.
    Why on earth did Humza Yousaf have to put a figure on the perceived aid we would be giving? Couldn’t he have just said that an independent Scotland with its new found wealth would be in a better position than we are at present to help the very poor of this world.
    The quotation, incidentally, was made by a contemporary observer of MacBeth, the 11th century king of Scots, on his pilgrimage to Rome.
    Scattering money like seed among the poor of Rome was indeed all very laudable, but were the common people of Scotland so individually wealthy that he could really afford to do what he did; presumably just to ingratiate himself with the Pope and the Roman establishment?
    Let’s have a little more thought put into our statements to the press and other British media. They can’t be trusted, and we must keep that in the forefront of our minds.

  13. Cameron says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the articles’ sentiments regarding the attractiveness of de-militarisation and the influence that “soft-power” can bring. I also feel that civil liberties here in Scotland, will not remain unaffected by an unchecked global distribution of development, that is counter to participatory democracy.
    Only marginally OT, is anyone else concerned about the possible long-term implications of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, on a small country such as ours.
    Norway is not as spotless as the article might suggest. In fact, the six F-16 jets that Norway contributed to the 2011 military intervention in to Libya, accounted for about 10 percent of the NATO airstrikes on Libya, by as early as the beginning of June. You can do a lot of damage with a relatively small deployment of the latest weapons.
    Could it be that NATO sought “small country cover”, when overstepping the “rules of engagement” set out by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.
    And I really don’t mean to be a pain, but I think the article has possible had a bit of a Homer Simpson moment when it suggested, “(And at the same time reducing a state’s military expenditure, freeing more money to pay for the aid.)”. Does anyone know what percentage of the UK’s GDP and tax base is accounted for by the arms industry?

  14. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    @Ronald Henderson

    Thats what you take away from the article and to a point you are right.

    If Yousaf had said he intends to maintain the 0.7% that Scotland currently contributes as part of the UK and not mentioned the increased figure then there would be very little to argue with…


    The herald and Scotsman inferred through their articles that we would be moving from £9 million to £100’s of millions.

    The fact we will be paying nearly £1 Billion in 2013 as part of the Union was totally ignored.

    It was a blatant attempt to rile up the Daily Mail anti foreigner brigade (and as a byproduct ethnic tension), therefore the pro independence side cant just let it lie.

    Yes we need debate around increasing any budget, and to be honest in the short term I dont think there is a case for it, but in the long term having a noble goal like that to aspire to is no bad thing, afterall we want to play a positive role in the world!

  15. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:


    Yes, Norway backed the UN sanctioned actions in Libya. But due to its “soft power” stance it doesnt need to get involved in conflicts like that all the time.

    Adopting a softer stance doesnt mean you give up on alternatives if there is no other option.  

  16. peter says:

    Bill Leckie had a go at this today in the Sun, I know I know but he complains about getting abuse from Nats as he calls them but the thing is I have twice emailed him to challenge his article and not even a reply to say he had read the email. He should stick to doing sport as his grasp of Scottish politics is minimal.

  17. Cameron says:

    @ Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy)
    As I have asked several times on WOS, but without answer, should our objectives be formed by principle or expediency?
    Although that might seam a more appropriate question for after 2014, I don’t think we do ourselves justice of we let it slip from our mind’s eye.

  18. Davy says:

    Ok someone needs to let the Scots know how much money their country produces ? because I can guarantee most Scots do not know its £149 billion a year, plus a breakdown on how the money is spent and by whom. 

    Honestly these type of figures would give us some great amunintion to counter the unionist’s your too poor statements. 

    A good breakdown of that aid figures Scott, Thanks.

    Alba Gu snooker loopy!

  19. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    @ Cameron

    Both! If you dont aim high you wont achieve high!

    Ambition is a great thing, and reality comes from the pragmatic compromises we make to get as close to that ambition as we can.

    When men looked at birds they thought, “I want to fly like a bird”… we cant grow wings… we built aircraft instead…

    In truth we have one objective… independence.

    What it looks like will be pragmatic compromise, but I am sure of one thing…

    Our future is brighter out of the Union, able to make those compromises, those decisions for ourselves!             

  20. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    Nonsense article Stu. They intend to spend billions on foreign aid and leave us to starve.

    That’s it, I’m voting NO, I’ve seen the light. You’ll be telling us there are billions of pounds left of oil in the north sea and we have a huge potential for renewable energy. David Torrance was right. What a guy! 

  21. Cuphook says:

    We should also make sure that seemingly innocuous decisions do not damage developing countries. Look at the procurement of doctors and nurses from countries where they are not only badly needed but where the investment in their training is also lost. While I have nothing against people choosing to work in other countries we should be looking at how we can offset the damage which our needs cause. We’re proud of our education system so perhaps we could use that as a source of aid and train doctors or set up Scottish funded schools, and I don’t mean in a colonial sense.
    I hope we’re not ‘a national Kissinger’ – I have no desire to secretly bomb Cambodia.

  22. Aplinal says:

    Is this irony?  Or are you really serious?  Vote Independence and elect a government you think will stand for your views, not for the “City”, London, and the SE England.  The money is ALREADY being spent by Westminster.  They ALREADY spend billions on WMD and are committed to spending 100s more.  They ALREADY take the little from the worst off and intend gifting it to their rich friends.  They ALREADY plan to privatise the NHS, and have ALREADY privatised the natural resources and infrastructure of rUK (water, energy, rail etc.)
    Is this REALLY what you want for Scotland?

  23. Cameron says:

    @ Scott Minto
    “Our future is brighter out of the Union, able to make those compromises, those decisions for ourselves! ”
    I couldn’t find a better objective. I did look, honest guv.

  24. Macart says:

    No a bad thing to aspire to, is it? 🙂

  25. ronald alexander mcdonald says:


    It is irony. I would only vote No if I had my head smashed in and ended up with an IQ of a sardine!   

  26. Cameron says:

    @ ronald
    Even than, do you really think you’d be that daft?

  27. johnnypict says:

    Bit O/T but Anas Anwars face during Pete Wishart’s face at 11:13 is an absolute picture…

  28. mark piggott says:

    My Kasperski still picking up Trojan, I think attached to the banner,I’m no geek.
    BTW Agree with all posts re this.
    @Aplinal  come on 😉

  29. ronald alexander mcdonald says:


    You’re right, that would be an insult to sardines.  

  30. charlie says:

    Good work Andy Wishart. Nice to see the Unionists  turning out in force…:-O

  31. Dal Riata says:

    Great work,Scott! Well done.

    This kind of article shows, yet again, the utter paucity of good reporting and in-depth analysis by the organs of the ‘4th estate’ – all quite deliberately (not) done of course.

    Mahatma Gandhi said, “Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surrounds it, it shines clear.” 

    The devious, misinforming and intentionally misleading articles that are to be found in the MSM regarding Scotland’s independence are, as Gandhi said, “cobwebs of ignorance” used to hide the truth. 

    Those cobwebs will, in time, be lifted and the truth will “shine clear” whether it be before the referendum or after. When the people of this country – and others – do eventually find out they have/had been lied to for so long those advocates of The Big Lie will not be forgotten, or, forgiven. 

    “It was a blatant attempt to rile up the Daily Mail anti foreigner brigade (and as a byproduct ethnic tension), therefore the pro independence side cant just let it lie.”

    I did glance at an ‘SNP accused-style’ headline in today’s (Tuesday, 15th) Daily Mail relating to the SNP’s foreign aid budget in an independent Scotland (So, they know that the SNP will be the ruling party in the first government of an independent Scotland – blimey, fortune-telling abilities – who knew!) but I didn’t read the article as I dismissed it as being yet another smear of some sort. But now, thanks to Scott’s article, I’ll go and see if I can relocate it and dig out some ‘gems’ that are sure to be there! Will report back. 

  32. Angus McLellan says:

    @Cameron: Defence is said (by a defence industry funded and unbiased source) to “[generate] over £35 billion per year to the UK economy”. And as a percentage of GDP? Well in round numbers that would be 2-3%.
    In Scotland the number is said (by Scottish Enterprise, so figures not directly comparable) to be £1.8 billion or in very round numbers something in the 1-1.5% range.

    The same two sources give defence related employment as 300K for the UK and 13K for Scotland. So, again defence comes in a less of a big deal here than in other parts of the UK (read “central and southern England”), although how much less is open to question. (In both cases those will exclude the MoD’s personnel in and out of uniform. And they probably don’t include people doing cleaning, cooking and whatever else for the MoD employed by Serco or Capita or whoever.)

  33. dadsarmy says:

    Cuphook – yes, Kissinger without the politics!

    Sneekyboy – sorry, I wrongly attributed the article to Rev.

  34. dadsarmy says:

    Herald main page has a user quote of the day. Right now it’s:

    User Comment of the Day

    After a poll reveals support for the Yes campaign has stalled

    Gavin Cook posted:

    The 5% drop in NO corresponds exactly with a 5% rise in undecided. Therefore the only movement has been from the NO camp to the undecided.”

    I’ve seen other pro-indy comments of the day as well.

  35. Cameron says:

    @ Angus McLellan
    So it appears that de-militarisation wouldn’t prove to be a terribly big hit to the Scottish economy then? Good, the boys at the arms works can start re-tooling now.
    That still leaves tricky questions, such as what military actions we are prepared to support (directly or indirectly as the UK is doing in Syria right now), where and for what reasons.

    Apologies for being a pain. :0

  36. charlie says:

    The Daily Mail! Is even Maw Broon still reading that?

  37. Craig P says:

    I personally would prefer if there were any money to spare that it be invested in infrastructure or put aside for a rainy day, but you make a persuasive argument Scott. I’ve just read Confessions of an Economic Hitman, which cites UN estimates that everybody on the planet could get a basic diet and education, fresh water and sanitation for half the amount the US spent on the Iraq war. 
    Btw, anybody interested in the US’s foreign interests should read this book, quite an eye opener. Makes you wonder if Chinese investment has any similar ulterior motive. 
    I will also echo Davy, £149bn is a serious amount, it makes the budget given to Holyrood (c£32bn-ish?) look like pocket money. 

  38. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “My Kasperski still picking up Trojan, I think attached to the banner,I’m no geek.”

    Microsoft Security Essentials and AVG both report the new banner image as clean. Tell Kaspersky to shut his whiny big yap.

  39. Ronald Henderson says:

    @Ronald McD and @Aspinal
    I’m not sure whether it’s irony, sarcasm or satire.
    I think it’s irony.

  40. Albert Herring says: seems to have been taken down.

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