Defending the UK’s foreign aid budget has been made harder by the Oxfam scandal, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has said.
The Tory leader was speaking as fresh reports of allegations of sexual misconduct at international charities based in Scotland have emerged.
It was reported on Sunday that The Halo Trust – the organisation which took Ms Davidson to Afghanistan last week – has suspended a staff member following a sexual assault allegation.
The organisation has been accused of concealing the findings of an inquiry into allegations staff used prostitutes while delivering aid in Haiti in 2011.
Speaking on ITV’s Peston on Sunday, Ms Davidson said: “The idea that international helpers that go to a country that’s had a terrible disaster, like Haiti, and use their position – which is to help the most vulnerable – to then exploit them, is probably pretty much the lowest circle of hell that you can find.
“The idea that instead of addressing that behaviour, instead of reporting it, instead of allowing the authorities in the country to deal with it, instead of allowing victims of that behaviour to see justice being done, the idea is that ‘we will protect the reputation that we’ve built up ourselves’ – I think that’s what has really hurt people at the centre of this affair.”
The UK is committed to spending 0.7% on its national income on foreign aid.
“We can’t ignore all the good that aid does, and I know that the 0.7% debate is a big debate,” Ms Davidson said.
“I think (those who support UK aid) have all got a bigger job to do to explain what it actually is that British aid does around the world, and I think what Oxfam has done has just made that job 100% harder.”
Ms Davidson’s comments came as it was reported that The Halo Trust, the Dumfries and Galloway based landmine clearance charity, suspended “a junior Burmese member of staff” in January who is currently being investigated following an allegation of sexual assault.
The BBC reported a statement from the charity, stating: “He denies the allegation.
“The local British Embassy and DFID were informed within 24 hours of the allegation.
“The Charity Commission has been informed. We take such allegations extremely seriously.”
The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (Sciaf) last week reported two cases of alleged sexual misconduct involving children, while Mary’s Meals said it had dismissed a staff member over an “inappropriate relationship” with an adult.
Ms Davidson praised the work of The Halo Trust last week after spending four days observing its work in Kabul.