A Trussell Trust foodbank. Photo credit: Newfrontiers via photopin cc

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy called for a “halt on food poverty” during a visit to a community cafe in Edinburgh.

Jim Murphy said Scottish Labour would end the need for food banks in Scotland with the introduction of a £175 million anti-poverty fund.

He added that Labour’s promise to scrap the hated bedroom tax would allow the Scottish Government to save £35 million it uses to mitigate the damaging effects of the policy.

The saving could then be added to the anti-poverty fund to extend crisis grants, provide financial advice to food bank users and promote credit unions.

Around 71,000 people in Scotland are currently reliant on food banks to feed themselves and their families, compared to just 7,500 four years ago. This includes more than 22,300 children.

Jim Murphy said: “It is a scandal that thousands of Scots are forced to exist on food handouts, and worse that for too many the only hot meal they can afford is a Pot-Noodle or Cup-a-Soup.

“The number of Scottish families forced to depend on food handouts has rocketed in the last three years.

“It’s a disgrace that in a country as rich as ours so many people have to rely on being fed by charity. It’s time to call a halt to food poverty in Scotland.

“For many other people, they are just a broken fridge or boiler away from being in serious financial trouble.

“Labour will abolish the Tories’ bedroom tax and we will use the savings to establish a £175 million Scottish Anti-Poverty Fund.

Scottish Labour blame the shocking rise in the use of food banks on delays in vital benefit payments, such as those caused by the increased use of benefit sanctions. As the number of benefit sanctions rise, so do the number of food bank users.

South of the border, Labour leader Ed Miliband has promised to crackdown on punitive and unfair benefit sanctions by banning the use of targets in Jobcentres.

The Conservatives continue to deny that targets for benefit sanctions exist, despite growing evidence to the contrary and a call for an independent investigation by the Work and Pensions Committee.

Labour say they would also ban “exploitative” zero-hours contracts, by giving workers the legal right to demand a regular contract after 12 weeks.

Jim Murphy said: “After five years of the Tories, even having a job doesn’t guarantee freedom from poverty.”

“We will drive up living standards by banning exploitative zero hours contracts, raise the minimum wage and extend the living wage.

“We have a vision for Scotland: A country where people in crisis are supported, not forced to queue for handouts. A country where young people, no matter their background, get every opportunity to succeed. A country where working families prosper.

Mr Murphy warned: “A UK Labour government doesn’t happen by proxy – you need to vote for it.

“A vote for any other party makes it easier for the Tories to hang on and means five more years of austerity that would be a dreadful for Scotland.”

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