Ian Blackford has urged Scottish MPs to “do the right thing” by standing against Boris Johnson’s plans to cut the UK’s foreign aid budget.
It comes ahead of a possible vote in the Commons next week on the issue, with the Prime Minister having proposed to slash the aid budget from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5%.
The move has sparked rebellion from a string of Conservative MPs, with former prime minister Theresa May amongst those hoping to defeat the Government by backing an amendment to the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill at its report stage.
The amendment, if selected by Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, seeks to hold the Government to its 0.7% obligation.
Speaking to STV News, Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said the UK has a responsibility to help those living in other parts of the world.
He said: “I hope we can win this vote and my message to every MP in Scotland is let’s do the right thing on Monday.
“Each and every one of us should be going through the lobby to support this amendment to make sure that the Government is given that instruction from the House of Commons on behalf of our constituents that foreign aid is important.
“It should define who we are as individuals and collectively, and we do not support what this Government is doing.”
He continued: “All parties had a commitment to maintain aid spending at 0.7% of GDP, it was in the Tory manifesto, and this goes against the promise that the Scottish Conservatives made to the people in the election campaign.
“They need to stand up with us, they need to have that moral fibre to say that, ‘look, this is wrong’.
“We have that responsibility to those in other parts of the world, those that need our help, those that need our help to get through the pandemic.”
On Friday, former prime minister Sir John Major threw his weight behind efforts to prevent the cut in aid spending, and urged Johnson to “let compassion prevail”.
Blackford outlined the importance of politicians from all parties standing together on the issue to send a message to Johnson.
“Everybody’s struggling in terms of coming through this pandemic, but when you can’t put food on the table, when you haven’t got access to safe water, we need to make sure that we’re stepping up to the plate, that we’re protecting people that most need our help at this time,” said Blackford.
“And to find the UK Government walking away from the commitments that they had made and the commitments that they had made to the electorate is morally reprehensible.
“So, on this, I’ll stand with John Major and I’ll stand with Theresa May because all of us must stand together with those that need our support and Boris Johnson needs to get that message, this isn’t good enough.
“And these Scottish Tory MPs need to recognise their obligation to stand with us through this as well.”
Asked how confident he is that the Government can be defeated, he said: “I’m not at the moment, I’m hopeful that they can be, but that is why every vote is going to be crucial.
“So, whether you’re an SNP MP, a Conservative, a Liberal Democrat, Labour, or the Alba MPs, every single Scottish MP must vote on Monday and they must vote to stand up for those that need our help in the poorer parts of the world.
“That’s the obligation that they have and I think people in Scotland will reflect pretty poorly on those that don’t do that on Monday if they fail to do so.”
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