MANY young Syrians have known nothing but war for all of their short lives. For the last 10 years, their country has been torn apart by a brutal civil war marked by some of the most heinous war crimes of my lifetime, including the starvation and gassing of children and the deliberate targeting of schools and hospitals by government planes.

In the cruellest ways possible, the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his supporters are following through with the ultimatum they gave to pro-democracy protestors back in 2011. Daubed on walls and chanted by soldiers across Syria, their message was clear: “Assad, or we burn the country”.

Ten years on, more than 100,000 Syrians have been forcibly disappeared and many more have seen their homes reduced to rubble by government planes.

More than half the surviving pre-war population have been forced from their homes – some to makeshift internal displacement camps while others have managed to leave the country altogether. One survey suggests that more than three-quarters of these people are suffering some form of PTSD.

Those who remain face the triple threat of the regime, the Covid-19 pandemic and an economic crisis which together, the World Food Programme estimates, have driven more than 60% of the population to the brink of starvation.

The situation in Syria is harrowing. It is all the more difficult to read and hear about because the Syrian civil war is perhaps the most well-documented conflict in history, with credible evidence of the Syrian people’s plight – including video and survivors’ testimony – available to anyone with an internet connection. No-one can claim to be completely ignorant of the horrors we are witness to in Syria. Yet, against the backdrop of such unimaginable suffering, the UK Government announced last week that – despite the pleading of the United Nations – it would slash aid funding to the Syrian people as a result of the impact of the coronavirus at home.

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Despite our friends and allies in the EU and US also suffering the effects of the global pandemic, they made no such cuts. Instead, they pledged a combined $1.2 billion last week to help tackle the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria while the UK, once more, is left standing alone, isolated on the world stage by its cruelty and narrow-mindedness. Not only do the excuses given for the aid cut ring hollow when compared to our international partners, but they simply are not credible given this Tory Government’s track record when it comes to public money.

They want us to believe that there is no money for a public sector pay rise, but that a castle in Robert Jenrick’s constituency urgently and desperately needs a £25 million handout. They want us to believe that every penny spent by the UK Government is absolutely necessary and scrupulously accounted for,

and that Matt Hancock’s old neighbour really was the best-qualified person to be awarded £30m in Covid contracts.

The UK Government insisted there was simply not enough money to feed hungry school children, until it was forced into another humiliating U-turn by Marcus Rashford. They maintain that there is no money for the world’s most vulnerable people, but that there is – and there always will be – cash to replace and increase the UK’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. How stupid do they think we are?

Consequences, the Tories believe, are for the little people. The Prime Minister is free to lavish public money on his lovers and the Home Secretary can bully her employees with no reprisals. Meanwhile, funding for public sector workers is frozen and aid to the world’s most vulnerable is slashed. This funding cut shows up “Global Britain” for exactly what it is: small-minded and cruel, with cash for bombs but not for bairns.

Long after David Cameron and George Osborne left office to line their pockets elsewhere, their poisonous rhetoric around the national economy continues to blight our political discourse. More than those examples above, last year more than any other showed that government spending is a political choice – not an economic one. If the Tories want to spend money, rest assured they will find it. When it comes to aid for the world’s poorest people, it is clear that they are simply not interested.

The May election is not a typical one. More than a choice between parties, Scottish voters are being asked to choose between two visions of the future. The Tories in Westminster have shown us the moribund politics they can offer, marked by attacks on the most vulnerable in society and a jingoistic obsession with flags and statues over real living people.

With independence, Scotland can take a different path: outward-looking, compassionate and a force for good in the world.