Churches in plea to Alex Salmond

Scotland’s Christian leaders have issued a last-minute plea to First Minister Alex Salmond not to cut the Scottish Government’s aid budget as part of his attempt to find £1.2 billion of savings next year.

The heads of the Church of Scotland, the Catholic Church, and the Scottish Episcopal Church wrote to Salmond on Friday to warn it would be a "tragedy" if the Scottish Government was seen to be cutting its commitment to the world’s poor at this time.

In the letter, they argue that Scotland has a "moral responsibility" towards the poorest in the world, and that it would be wrong to not to "balance the books in our nation by withdrawing support from those most in need".

The Scottish Government’s international development budget, created five years ago, has been used to help life-saving projects in Malawi and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and has also supported emergency appeals in the wake of the Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods.

But with Scottish ministers having to find huge spending cuts next year, there are fears that the aid programme could fall victim to the axe.

Last week, the heads of Scotland’s eight aid agencies, including SCIAF, Christian Aid Scotland and Oxfam Scotland, said the funding from Scottish ministers was required more than ever, as the global economic crisis hits hard on the world’s poor.

The letter to Salmond is signed by Cardinal Keith O’Brien; Rt Rev John Christie, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; and the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Most Rev David Chillingworth.

"As leaders of the Christian faith in Scotland, we are writing to urge you not to reduce the commitment of the Scottish Government to its international development strategy when the budget is announced," they write.

• Full story at Scotland on Sunday.