Source : The Scotsman


THERE were no tears and histrionics, nor any Bob Geldof-style exhortations from singer Annie Lennox yesterday. Instead the former Eurythmics frontwoman cut a sombre figure as she appealed to MSPs to continue with Scotland’s aid links with Malawi. Dressed down in black jeans and a black top, only the HIV POSITIVE logo across her T-shirt hinted at the purpose of her visit to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish star was addressing MSPs in her role as a special envoy and insisted that the relationship between Scotland and Malawi has been a success and must continue.

Dressed down in black jeans and a black top, only the HIV POSITIVE logo across her T-shirt hinted at the purpose of her visit to the Scottish Parliament. 

She showed a 26-minute film of a recent trip she undertook with Holyrood Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson to the African country to see the impact of Scottish aid on the ground.

The 56-year-old urged the Scottish public to be “proud” of their ongoing support to a country experiencing “a hugely significant human catastrophe”.

She said: “It’s a no-brainer. Scotland and the people of Scotland have always been innovators historically.

“We could potentially take the challenge of how to respond effectively to the challenges facing people in developing countries. How do we help them get a leg up?

“I think it’s a noble quest and I’d like to take those who cast aspersions on the work we’ve been doing to a hospital in Malawi and I’d like them to look in the eyes of a dying child.

“We can’t turn our backs on that, it’s what makes us human.”

It is now six years since former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell signed a co-operation deal with the African country. 

More than £13 million in aid has since been provided and links with hundreds of schools in the two countries established.

He was among the audience of MSPs yesterday, as well as Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and former culture minister Patricia Ferguson from the last Executive, who told the singer she was “grateful” to see the film.

“We’ve not been without our critics over the years for the stance we have taken, both for venturing into international development as a whole but also for our focus on Malawi,” Mrs Ferguson said.

“The film helped give us extra confidence to take forward what we know is the right thing to do.” 

The film showed Lennox visiting schools, hospitals and orphanages and meeting with sex workers during a five-day visit in her role as a special envoy.

The projects are designed to help fight the spread of HIV/Aids, which is the leading cause of death amongst adults in the country, where life expectancy is just 43 years.

The Brit and Grammy award winner met women in the Blantyre area of Malawi who were working their way out of prostitution.

During the question-and-answer session with MSPs, Lennox picked out Scottish-based charity Mary’s Meals, praising the organisation’s commitment to delivering 420,000 meals every school day to children.