Global Recovery (Covid-19)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 16th December 2021.

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Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

6. To ask the Scottish Government how its work with overseas partners is helping to tackle Covid-19 and support global recovery. (S6O-00545)

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

Since the start of the pandemic, the Scottish Government has allocated £3.5 million from our international development budget for Covid support in our partner countries of Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia.

In addition, in September, we donated £11.2 million-worth of surplus NHS Scotland personal protective equipment kit to our three partner countries in Africa and provided £250,000 from our international development fund in contribution to the transportation costs for those materials.

In the next financial year, we will increase our international development fund by a further £1.5 million to £11.5 million, specifically for initiatives that respond to Covid-19 in our three African partner countries.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

After announcing further funding for overseas aid last month, will the minister outline what more, if anything, is being planned to supplement the efforts to vaccinate people in our partner countries, in the light of the rise in Covid cases as a result of the omicron variant?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I thank Brian Whittle for his question. I do not know whether he was in the chamber two weeks ago when I made a statement that was focused on our Covid response in our partner countries. The Scottish Government’s Covid-19 pandemic response in those countries has been largely focused on preparing them for vaccination roll-out, rather than on the vaccination roll-out itself. That is because we are not members of the COVAX—Covid-19 vaccines global access—programme, so there are a number of challenges involved.

Last year, we conducted a review of our international development offer. I instructed that review because of the new reality that Covid presented in our international development roll-out. Last year, for example, we awarded £2 million to UNICEF to help with its Covid-19 response, including on vaccination preparedness, which I mentioned, and on delivery.

More recently, I visited the University of Glasgow with colleagues from Malawi’s Kamuzu University of Health Sciences to learn about some of the work that we are funding with it that is focused on genomic sequencing capacity in Malawi. That project brings together the expertise of Kamuzu and Glasgow universities to learn about how the virus intersects with the vaccine in our partner countries, in order to impact on the Covid-19 pandemic to the benefit of the Malawian and Scottish populations. The primary objective will be to determine the magnitude of the immune response to Covid-19 vaccines in the Malawian population.

Although we are not directly involved in vaccination, I hope that that will give Brian Whittle some assurance that we are very much involved in vaccination preparedness and in the wider learning around how the vaccine is developing in our partner countries, which we know is absolutely crucial in terms of what we face right now from new variants, particularly omicron.

Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

The fight against climate change must always be our priority in supporting the global recovery. In April, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees released data showing that 21.5 million people have been displaced by climate change-related disasters since 2010. It pointed out that

“in addition to sudden disasters, climate change is a complex cause of food and water shortages, as well as difficulties in accessing natural resources.”

Statistics show that there could be a rise of more than 200,000 in the number of displaced people in the years to come. Those people and refugees are doubly hit by Covid-19 outbreaks, with limited access to healthcare and vaccination.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Mr Choudhury, could we have a question, please?

Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

What steps is the Scottish Government taking to prevent further tragedies and to support refugees who are in need?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

Foysol Choudhury is right to point to the impacts of climate change on developing countries in particular. He will know that the Scottish Government’s response is primarily through the climate justice fund, which sits with my colleague Màiri McAllan. Nonetheless, it is important to point out that the Scottish Government recently increased that fund.

Additionally, we have increased our funding for loss and damage with a new fund that is specifically available for our partner countries to tackle the loss and damage aspects of climate change impacts.

Foysol Choudhury asked how we can respond to pandemics and the challenges that are presented by climate change in our partner countries. We primarily offer assistance through our humanitarian emergency fund. He might be aware that, earlier this week, we announced funding for the roll-out of support in Afghanistan, which is, of course, facing a huge challenge. That work is being addressed through use of the humanitarian emergency fund, but there is more of a link with Màiri McAllan’s ministerial responsibilities in respect of the climate justice fund.

However, it is important that we have policy coherence on those issues, so I will meet Ms McAllan in January to discuss how we can link our international development work with our climate justice fund.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

I welcome the compassionate approach to international co-operation and development that the Scottish Government has pursued in recent years. Can the minister provide any further detail about how Scotland’s ambition to enhance its reputation as a good global citizen will be served by the 2022-23 Scottish budget?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

International development is a key part of Scotland’s global contribution within the international community. It encompasses our historical and contemporary core values of fairness and equality. The increase to our international development fund from £10 million to £11.5 million during the next financial year—in contrast with the UK Government, which is cutting development funding—is a clear indication of this Government’s ambition to further enhance Scotland’s reputation as a good global citizen.