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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Covid-19, Urgent Question, Covid-19 (International Development Support), Scottish Attainment Challenge, Report of the Citizens Assembly of Scotland (Government Response), Committee Announcement (Made Affirmative Procedure Inquiry), Decision Time, Linking Food and Climate Change


Contents


Covid-19 (International Development Support)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Annabelle Ewing)

The next item of business is a statement by Jenny Gilruth on international development and Covid-19 support in relation to partner countries and humanitarian responses. The minister will take questions at the end of her statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.

15:34  

The Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development (Jenny Gilruth)

As we have just heard from the First Minister, the Covid pandemic is far from over, but the challenges that the virus continues to present for wealthy countries such as Scotland can in no way compare to those that the virus continues to present to some of the poorest countries in the world. It is therefore incumbent on wealthy nations such as ours to work together to ensure that those with the least are not failed by those with the most. As United Nations secretary general António Guterres noted in March of last year,

“This is, above all, a human crisis that calls for solidarity.”

Covid-19 has tested humanity, whether in Blantyre, Malawi or in Blantyre, Scotland. The pandemic forced Governments globally to act swiftly in order to save lives.

Our international development partner countries, Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan, each have a different starting point on their recovery journey from the pandemic. To ensure that we do no harm and that we contribute impactfully, we must therefore listen to the needs of those in the global south and act on their ambitions for recovery. On behalf of the Scottish Government, I reiterate that we remain fully committed to playing our part in tackling shared global challenges and to international solidarity.

Our international development offer was first introduced under the previous Labour-Liberal Government and it has enjoyed cross-parliamentary support since that time. That legacy is an important one, as we build on and develop Scotland’s offer further—and I very much look forward to working with Opposition members on how we do just that.

In September 2020, our programme for government committed us to carrying out a review of our approach to international development in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, so that we could focus our work where we can make the biggest difference in our partner countries against the new reality of Covid-19. I announced the results of the review to the Parliament in March this year. Today, I will give a further update to the Parliament, focusing on the Scottish Government’s response to Covid-19 in our partner countries.

Since the start of the pandemic, we have committed £3.5 million from the international development budget to provide overseas assistance on Covid-19-related support. Most of our international development-funded projects were able to continue throughout the pandemic, delivering vital work on the ground. At the very start of the pandemic, we sought to support existing partner organisations, where that was possible. That allowed projects to pivot their funds and adjust their programmes accordingly. For example, the MalDent project, which runs in conjunction with the University of Glasgow, was able to pivot £20,000 to support the purchase of tablets and data bundles for remote teaching at the Malawi Kamuzu University of Health Sciences. That teaching for trainee dentists was absolutely essential in a country of 19 million people that has fewer than 50 qualified dentists.

Perhaps one of the most important decisions that we took last year was to devote a fifth of the international development budget to one particular initiative. In November last year, following discussions with our partner countries, we partnered with UNICEF to support the Covid-19 response by providing £2 million, split equally across Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia. At our request, UNICEF targeted some of that funding to vaccine preparedness, helping to prepare health systems for distribution.

Listening to the voices of the people who live in our partner countries was vital to ensuring that we got our Covid response right. One of the key drivers of last year’s review was the need to hear directly from those who live in our partner countries. The review therefore committed to establishing a global south panel, which will directly advise and challenge Government on our international development offer. I am pleased to announce today that the first two members of the panel that I will be appointing are UN Women Malawi’s country director, Clara Anyangwe, and Professor Emmanuel Makasa of the University of Zambia. When speaking with representatives of our partner countries directly, it became clear that the particular challenges that they faced concerned a lack of oxygen supply, the energy infrastructure to support health centres and the delivery of education.

The way in which we have experienced Covid in Scotland is not the same as how our partner countries have experienced it, so we had to ensure that our offer met their needs. In March this year, I announced a further and final tranche of international development funding for the 2020-21 financial year, with more than £500,000 to support vaccine roll-out, online learning and research to improve resilience on Covid. That funding provided support to Chitambo hospital in Zambia for installing an oxygen plant facility and an off-grid solar energy system in order to ensure reliable access to electricity. It also funded Kamuzu University of Health Sciences to implement genomic sequencing capacity work in Malawi, which will help to identify new variants of the virus and to improve disease resilience.

The funding also provides further support to the British Council for our existing Pakistan women and girls scholarships scheme, providing laptops to ensure information technology resilience and enable online learning. There is also funding for a surgical scholarship through Kids OR—the Kids Operating Room; a clinical officer training post in Rwanda; and for the Community Energy Malawi partnership so that it can install back-up solar power systems at health centres in Malawi. That latest Covid funding to our long-term renewable energy partners in Malawi—CEM and the University of Strathclyde—is targeted at health facilities and we have already seen the positive impact that the additional funding has realised in Malawi. Energy systems were designed by Community Energy Malawi to address specific and wider needs at each hospital, including at a clinic that is also an HIV treatment centre and at a tuberculosis isolation unit. The benefits of those back-up solar power systems, which were installed in response to Covid, are therefore wide-reaching and will have long-lasting benefits for the people of Malawi.

Most recently, in this financial year, we announced further support to our partner countries, including £270,000 allocated to Kids OR to send 300 oxygen concentrators to Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda; funding to transport 40 NHS Scotland ventilators, valued at £750,000, to those countries; and £250,000 to leverage the provision to our partner countries of £11.2 million-worth of personal protective equipment to aid the Covid response—our biggest-ever single donation.

I confirm to the Parliament that, this financial year, I am committing a further £1.5 million to be used specifically to target initiatives responding to Covid-19 in Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia. Our Covid investments, totalling £5 million to date, have also leveraged additional support worth at least £13 million, meaning that, by the end of this year, the Scottish Government’s contribution to overseas support specifically to tackle Covid-19 will be worth in excess of £18 million. I am very proud that we have made the political choice to do that.

In addition to the outlined support for our partner countries, £240,000 of support from our humanitarian emergency fund went last year towards Covid-19 response efforts for vulnerable communities in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As the global pandemic continues, now is not the time to turn our back on the global south. The United Kingdom Government took a deplorable decision, during the worst excesses of the pandemic last year, to cut international development spending. Although the recent shift indicated by Rishi Sunak to restore the 0.7 per cent official development assistance commitment is welcome, that will not be realised until at least 2024 or 2025. We also know that certain spend will be newly badged as ODA, further reducing the spend to those who need it most. That simply is not good enough. According to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Malawi will see a 51.5 per cent reduction in UK aid spending; for Zambia that will be 59 per cent, for Rwanda 42 per cent and for Pakistan 39 per cent.

Earlier this year, the UK Government announced an 85 per cent cut in its payments to the United Nations population fund, which provides reproductive health programmes globally. That will have devastating impacts for women and girls. McDonald Makwaka, the executive director of the Family Planning Association of Malawi has noted:

“Malawi has already witnessed a sharp increase in teenage pregnancies and child marriages during the Covid-19 pandemic; if the UK continues with its decision to reduce its resources that equip basic health infrastructure for women and girls to access family planning, more girls and women will die of unsafe abortions.”

We know that the pandemic has been gendered in its impacts, yet the UK Government has taken a political choice that harms women in developing countries at a time when they need our help most. It is also clear that the pandemic has been used as a political opportunity to slash funding for the world’s poorest. If the Prime Minister is serious about global Britain he must take Britain’s global responsibilities seriously. He could start by ensuring that the commitment to overseas aid is immediately reinstated at 0.7 per cent. The women and girls of Malawi cannot wait until 2025.

I was very pleased to meet the President and Foreign Minister of Malawi and the Vice President of Zambia during COP26—the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties. The need for equitable access to vaccines was high on both countries’ agendas. Indeed, according to the World Health Organization, Africa has fully vaccinated 77 million people, which is only 6 per cent of its population. The President of Zambia recently highlighted the fact that only 3 per cent of Zambia’s population has so far been vaccinated. It is therefore vital that we create the conditions for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. We in Scotland have an opportunity to share our knowledge to support our partner countries with their vaccination programmes. Although Scotland is not a member of the COVAX scheme, we will continue engaging with the UK Government on that matter.

Listening to our partner countries is also key to our response to the climate emergency. Members will be aware that, during COP26, the Scottish Government announced a ground-breaking commitment to loss and damage funding. We also plan to treble the climate justice fund to £36 million during the course of this parliamentary session.

COP26 remains fresh in our minds, as does the need for international solidarity. When I asked Malawi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs how the Scottish Government can support Malawi in its recovery, he told me that we must ensure that we build back stronger in a way that is sustainable. When I reflect on what has been achieved in this past month, it clear that internationalism has never been more important. The world united at COP26; now we must unite in a truly global response to Covid-19.

The minister will now take questions on the issues that were raised in her statement. I intend to allow 20 minutes for questions. We will then move on to the next item of business.

Donald Cameron (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I thank the minister for prior sight of her statement and the support that she has outlined. As she acknowledged, there has always been strong cross-party support for the international aid efforts of successive Scottish Governments, and we, on the Conservative benches, will certainly participate in any work that she undertakes with Opposition members when developing that.

The minister commented on the UK Government’s approach to international aid. I, too, welcome the chancellor’s recent commitment to restore the 0.7 per cent official development assistance figure and the firm date that has been given for that. The Scottish Conservatives have been calling for that for some time, and we are pleased that that has been acknowledged and acted on.

Much of the Scottish Government’s support has been directed to international vaccine roll-out, and rightly so in the light of the pandemic. Will the minister say how many doses have been delivered to date and how many the Scottish Government anticipates will be delivered as a result of the new funding that has been announced today?

More generally, I note that Scotland has strong pre-existing ties with a number of partner countries and programmes, which rightly continue to benefit, but that there is less of a Scottish Government presence in other parts of the world such as central and southern America and the Indo-Pacific region. What are the factors that play a part in deciding where Scottish Government aid funding is directed to?

Jenny Gilruth

I thank Donald Cameron for his questions. He raised a number of different points and I will try to respond to them all. First, he mentioned the importance of cross-party working in this Parliament on international development. That is well established, and I hope that we will hear further helpful suggestions from members this afternoon.

I know that Mr Cameron supported Rishi Sunak’s announcement very strongly. I recall that he made that point in the debate on Afghanistan. I say to him, though, that a gap has been created because the UK Government is not moving quickly enough. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact said just last month that, because of the aid cuts,

“the ability of the UK aid programme to respond flexibly to the evolving pandemic has been reduced.”

I think that £3.5 billion has been cut. Because of that, the UK Government cannot respond quickly to the pandemic. That is deeply regrettable, and I encourage Mr Cameron and his colleagues to call on their colleagues in the UK Government to move more quickly.

On the distribution of vaccines to poorer countries, we are not a member of the Covid-19 vaccines global access—COVAX—scheme, but the UK Government is. It was welcome that the UK Government pledged to send, I think, 100 million doses to poorer nations, but we know that, so far, it has delivered only about 9.6 million, which is less than 10 per cent of what was pledged. It is not just the UK Government that is struggling in that regard. Canada has delivered 3.2 million doses, which is about 8 per cent of what was pledged. The US has delivered the highest number of doses, at nearly 177 million, but that is still less than a fifth of the 1.1 billion jags that were originally promised.

The issue with the slowness of the roll-out of the vaccines programme in our partner countries is that, as Oxfam has commented, the only way to end the pandemic is to share the technology and the know-how with other qualified manufacturers so that everyone everywhere can have access to these life-saving vaccines.

On Mr Cameron’s point about the Indo-Pacific area, Scotland has, as he will know, a historic relationship with Malawi, and our support has been focused on the partner countries that I have spoken about today, which include Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia. We also have a pretty bespoke offer in Pakistan, which focuses on scholarships for girls. I would like us to have a much wider offer. Maybe when we are an independent country again we might just have that.

Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

I thank the minister for advance sight of her statement. I welcome her offer of cross-party work both in the chamber and through our cross-party groups. She is right to acknowledge the importance of practical support for our international development partner countries to come through and rebuild from the pandemic and to address the challenges of our climate emergency. However, I want to ask her about the follow-up work to the vaccine preparedness work and the support on oxygen supply, energy infrastructure and education.

To date, how many vaccine doses has Scotland donated to our partner countries—Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan? As she said, COP26 is still on our minds and we need to deliver climate justice. What is the Scottish Government’s detailed commitment to loss and damage investment? How much funding will be allocated? How and when will it be delivered and invested in the adaptation and mitigation measures that are now urgently needed in our partner countries?

Jenny Gilruth

I thank Sarah Boyack for her recognition of the importance of cross-party working.

As I mentioned in my statement, the Scottish Government’s direct support for our partner countries has been focused on PPE and not vaccines per se, because we are not part of the COVAX scheme. It is difficult for us to be in our partner countries, because we do not have a delivery model in operation on the ground. However, we have delivered the £2 million fund, which was decided upon last year, and I have given a bit more detail about the Covid efforts, which include vaccine preparedness.

The focus of last financial year’s spend was on getting the health systems in our partner countries ready for vaccine roll-out. However, in July, we provided a further £270,000 to supply 300 oxygen concentrators to our partner countries. That was repeatedly raised with me in a number of the implementation events that we held with partner countries. In August, we also announced funding to transport 40 national health service ventilators to our partner countries. They are valued at £750,000. In September, we announced £11 million-worth of PPE, which is our largest contribution to date.

That work is focused on PPE and preparedness in our partner countries as opposed to the vaccine roll-out itself, because we are not a member of the COVAX scheme. However, we continue to work with health colleagues. We are also considering what we might do to support vaccinations on the ground. As I mentioned in my statement, we have £1 million from the IDF that is, as yet unallocated. I am keen that we use that funding to get the vaccine to the people who need it most, which is hugely important.

Ms Boyack also touched on the climate justice fund, which was trebled during COP26. There was also a commitment from the Scottish Government on climate loss and climate justice. That fund sits with another minister, not me, but I can certainly provide her with more information from Ms McAllan, who has responsibility for it.

I ask for slightly more succinct questions and answers now that we have moved on from the front benchers.

Michelle Thomson (Falkirk East) (SNP)

I am pleased to see the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to its international obligations. Of significant importance is the commitment to supporting women. It is an unfortunate truth that, around the world, women and girls are often disproportionately affected during a crisis. How is the Scottish Government ensuring the principle that women as a sex class are given equal treatment and that that treatment is embedded in its approach to international development during and after the pandemic?

Jenny Gilruth

It is really important to acknowledge the gendered impact of Covid-19, as Michelle Thomson has done. It has been illustrated by an upsurge in violence against women and girls throughout the world and an increase in inequalities.

As I mentioned, during the review last year, I met and listened to our global south partners, which included a range of voices from civil society, and we heard about some of the impacts that have been felt in our partner countries. Representatives from civil society continuously highlighted gender. The finding of UN Women that Covid-19 is deepening the pre-existing inequalities and exposing vulnerabilities in sociopolitical and economic systems was also damning.

That situation is recognised in our new international development principles, which we shared last year. That is why, following the discussions from last year’s review, I announced in March that we would introduce a new cross-cutting equalities programme across all four of our partner countries, with a particular focus on promoting the equality and empowerment of women and girls.

Sharon Dowey (South Scotland) (Con)

Last month, the First Minister told the Parliament that the Government was “absolutely focused” on providing critical help for the people of Afghanistan, with £250,000 being made available from the humanitarian emergency fund. That is a welcome investment, but, according to the answer to a recent written question that I submitted, not a penny has been spent.

I am aware of the difficulties of operating in Afghanistan, but the situation is critical. What work has been done to get the £250,000 to Afghanistan? Why are the Scottish Government’s partners unable to get funding to the people who need it most? If the funding is not delivered now, when will it be delivered?

Jenny Gilruth

Sharon Dowey might be aware that there were a number of difficulties in getting funding into Afghanistan safely. That has been the major hold-up with that work.

The humanitarian emergency fund is independent of the Scottish Government. However, I assure Ms Dowey that there will be a decision on the matter later in the week and I will ensure that her office gets sight of that prior to its being released to the public.

I very much welcome the statement, especially the announcement of the extra £1.5 million. Will third sector organisations be involved in that work?

Jenny Gilruth

As I mentioned to Sharon Dowey, the humanitarian emergency fund panel is comprised of representatives from eight leading humanitarian aid organisations in Scotland. Those panel members, who are from non-governmental organisations, are allocated funding from our humanitarian emergency fund.

When it comes to the international development fund itself, we have provided funding via a number of third sector organisations so that they could partner with our partner countries in their Covid-19 responses. For example, we provided around £235,000 to First Aid Africa, with additional funding to install an oxygen plant that is capable of producing up to 8,400 litres of oxygen an hour. That plant is about providing oxygen not only to a hospital but to health facilities. The funding will also support the installation of off-grid solar power systems in at least five health centres in Zambia.

Foysol Choudhury (Lothian) (Lab)

I thank the minister for her statement. She will know that many nations in Africa are still way behind with vaccination. Some have vaccinated only 5 per cent of their population. Access remains a barrier and is proving to be of great difficulty in the speeding up of vaccinations. How much of Scotland’s vaccine supply has been delivered to Malawi, and what plans are there for bolstering supplies?

Jenny Gilruth

Foysol Choudhury is right to say that, at the moment, there is an issue with the provision of the vaccine to poorer countries. Judging by their current rates of vaccination, we will need an increase of around 6 billion doses by the end of this year. Speed of vaccination is really important, as we know when it comes to the roll-out of the booster programme in Scotland.

We also know that more than 80 per cent of the doses that have been administered so far have gone to people in high-income countries, and that only 1 per cent of people in low-income countries have been given at least one dose. There are clearly still huge challenges when it comes to vaccine equity.

I think that I responded to Sarah Boyack on the Scottish Government and the provision of vaccines. Thus far, our provision of Covid-19 support has been in the form of PPE. We are looking at other ways in which we might be able to assist with the roll-out of vaccination.

That is quite challenging, because we are not a member of the COVAX scheme. However, the UK Government is a member of the scheme. I have written to the UK Government about it on a number of occasions—most recently, to the new Minister for Africa, Vicky Ford, who was appointed in September. I am yet to hear back from her, but I very much look forward to working with the UK Government on this, because it is hugely important that Scotland’s voice is heard and, equally, that the voice of our partner countries is reflected in the allocation of vaccine to poorer countries.

Fiona Hyslop (Linlithgow) (SNP)

I am aware that the Scottish Government is in discussion with vaccine producer Valneva in West Lothian about business and export opportunities, and that Valneva has recently secured a 60-million dose order from the European Union, pending vaccine authorisations from the European Medicines Agency.

Given that the Valneva vaccine can be transported and stored at room temperature, which is important, could the discussions between Valneva and the Scottish Government lead to persuading the UK Government to use the Valneva product, once all medical approvals are in place? That would increase the UK Government’s vaccine exports to countries that need humanitarian support, in order to meet its global responsibility under COVAX. The UK is behind other countries in exporting vaccines, as has been pointed out by the World Health Organization.

Jenny Gilruth

I thank Fiona Hyslop for that important question, and I recognise her understandable constituency interest. We very much welcome the positive results that Valneva has reported from the stage 3 clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine, and the news that it has secured a substantial order from Europe. As part of our wider work of looking at the future delivery of all vaccination programmes in Scotland, we are keen to continue to engage with Valneva on vaccine development. At present, all Covid vaccines are procured on a four-nations basis by the UK vaccine task force. We would welcome activity that supported donation of those vaccines to lower-income countries.

As I mentioned, I think, in my response to another member, I had hoped to discuss the matter with the UK Government minister who has responsibility. I am yet to hear back from the current minister, but I very much hope to do so soon and, when I meet her, I will raise the issue directly with her.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

The minister is right to acknowledge that there is cross-party support on the issue. As John Mason did, I welcome the announcement of the further £1.5 million of support.

I appreciate that Covid has required speedy action. However, will the minister commit to ensuring that those who are helping to deliver projects in partner countries have early sight of the future funding objectives and access to proper application processes, with independent assessment and scoring of bids, so that we have the transparency that is the best means of ensuring that the funds that are allocated are put to the best possible use?

Jenny Gilruth

On transparency, I think that the way in which we have administered the support has been quite clear, but I am happy to share more information with Liam McArthur. He raised an issue about the funding application process. If he is aware of a specific issue regarding an organisation, I ask him to please raise that with me. I am happy to speak to officials about that and get him more information. He is absolutely correct that transparency is vital in international development.

Sometimes there is a challenge with this matter in the Parliament and in the devolved Government space, because we are not an independent country—as much as that might pain me—and therefore we do not have people on the ground in some of our dealings with our international development partner countries. It is difficult and challenging in that respect. However, we have had good partnership working with the Department for International Development and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

If Mr McArthur wants to raise with me a specific issue about governance or applications, I will be happy to look into that in more detail.

Maggie Chapman (North East Scotland) (Green)

I thank the minister for the advance sight of her statement. I am pleased to hear of the progress of the global south panel and I look forward to hearing about its work in the coming months. I note the comments on loss and damage, and climate justice, and I, too, will be interested in the written response that Sarah Boyack will receive.

As the minister has outlined, the global south has experienced the pandemic in very different ways from how we have experienced it here in Scotland, with inequalities being exacerbated by the lack of health and other infrastructure. Can we consider supporting a permanent vaccination roll-out system in our partner countries and elsewhere, not just one for Covid vaccinations? Such a system would allow vaccination against other diseases in non-pandemic times and would be there, ready and waiting, and thus a vital part of preparedness, for when future pandemics hit.

Such a system would also be transformative, especially given the potential advances in mRNA vaccines, which offer to help to tackle a whole variety of diseases that are not currently susceptible to previous vaccine technology.

Jenny Gilruth

I welcome Maggie Chapman’s comments about the importance of the global south panel. Throughout the review, it was hugely important that we were hearing from people in our partner countries—and broadly not from people in Scotland—about the issues that they were facing in the Covid-19 pandemic. I will share with Maggie Chapman further information regarding the climate justice fund, to which she alluded.

Maggie Chapman mentioned the potential permanent roll-out of our vaccines approach in our partner countries. I am happy to meet her to discuss that matter in more detail. It is not something that we have been considering at this time, but I am not ruling it out. It sounds as if it might be a positive way forward, but we probably need to speak to our partner countries about their needs on the ground. One thing that I said in my statement was that what we thought that our partner countries needed this time last year was not what they were looking for at all. Practical help with things such as oxygen containers and personal protective equipment was required on the ground.

I will take the matter away and meet Maggie Chapman to discuss it in more detail, and I will speak, of course, to the global south panel about how we take it forward.

Audrey Nicoll (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

I will pick up on the question that Foysol Choudhury asked. Throughout the pandemic, there has been commentary on the unevenness in the way in which some developed countries and regions have procured stocks of vaccinations, PPE, ventilators and other vital supplies. What assurance can the Scottish Government give that Scotland will play its part in ensuring equity of procurement of vital supplies for developing countries, while ensuring that our own population remains protected?

Jenny Gilruth

Audrey Nicoll raises a really important point. As I said, we know that access to PPE supply chains is important in our partner countries, particularly if they are to build back fairer and stronger from the pandemic. As I mentioned, we have provided large quantities of PPE and are delivering ventilators and oxygen equipment to our partner countries. The PPE and ventilators have been paid for but are no longer required in Scotland, so they are surplus. It is only right that we assist Malawi and our other partner countries in that regard.

I want to assure our own population that we have adequate stocks and supply chains in Scotland to meet our PPE demands. As I mentioned, we have made a large donation of PPE to our partner countries, which need those stocks now to keep their healthcare workers safe. We are stepping up to help. A total of 25.7 million PPE items have been shipped internationally, with a total value, as I said, of £11.2 million. They will go to front-line services in our three partner countries and directly help in their fight against Covid-19.

Alexander Stewart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Funding for initiatives is always welcome, but it is also important that there is a clear due process for determining how grants are awarded. Can the minister confirm that any future international development moneys will get to those who need it most and will be subject to such due process, to ensure transparency, accountability and value for taxpayers?

Yes, I am happy to confirm that.

Kaukab Stewart (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)

Having met representatives from Malawi in Kelvin’s Woodlands community garden during COP26, I was concerned to learn of the challenges that they face at the hands of climate change, which, in turn, have impacted on their ability to respond to Covid. Following on from the Scottish Government’s £2 million commitment to UNICEF, will the minister provide an update on the Scottish Government’s work to assist in the fight against Covid in Malawi and wider Africa?

Jenny Gilruth

As I mentioned in my statement, we have so far committed more than £3.5 million from the international development budget to the provision of overseas assistance in dealing with Covid-19 in our partner countries, which include Malawi. Today, I have announced a further £1.5 million for this financial year, which will specifically target initiatives to respond to the pandemic in Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia.

In addition to the £2 million of funding that we have provided to UNICEF, which Kaukab Stewart mentioned, in March this year I announced a tranche of funding that is worth more than £500,000, from the international development fund, which will help to support vaccine roll-out, online learning, healthcare, renewable energy and research on disease resilience.