Scottish National Party (SNP) Press Release:
After months of denial, a UK [Conservative Party] Minister has finally admitted there is a link between Westminster welfare cuts and the increase in food bank use across Scotland.
Giving evidence to the Welfare Reform Committee in the Scottish Parliament, Under Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell* said there “isn’t any doubt” that some people have been forced to go to food banks “because they have been subject, for example, to sanctions or delays in receiving benefits.”
The evidence the committee heard today is in stark contrast to evidence given to the committee by DWP director Neil Couling, who said that growing reliance on food banks was a result of the poorest people in society having to “maximise their economic choices”. This was later backed up by Employment Minister Esther McVey in a letter to Housing Minister Margaret Burgess.
Work and Pensions Minister Lord Freud has also previously claimed there was no link between Tory welfare cuts and soaring food bank use.
During the committee meeting, David Mundell also said he wanted the UK Government to produce an analysis of the use of food banks – something that has not yet been carried out, despite evidence from the Trussell Trust that reliance on food banks has grown 400 per cent in the past year. The Trust’s figures also show that 22,387 children in Scotland used food banks in 2013/14 alone – an increase of over 1000 per cent since 2011/12.
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael – who previously described the UK welfare system as “fantastic” – was scheduled to appear at the committee, but cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice.
SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing, who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee, said:
“While it is welcome that a UK Government Minister has finally faced up to the fact that Westminster’s attack on welfare is responsible for the growing number of people forced to rely on food banks, this admission is long overdue. For months, Westminster has ducked responsibility and tried to blame the poor for the devastating impact cuts to benefits are having.
“David Mundell has said he would like to see a UK Government analysis on food banks – something that has not yet been produced, despite the fact reliance on food banks has grown 400 per cent. Given we now have 22,387 children in Scotland relying on food banks for a square meal, we desperately need a change of direction.
“Scotland is brimming with resources and talent – and is richer per head than the UK, France and Japan – but while it is tied the Westminster system the most vulnerable people in society are forced to use food banks. Only a Yes vote in September can give Scotland the opportunity to build the fairer country we know we can be.”
Commenting on Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael’s cancellation of his appearance before the committee with less than 24 hours’ notice, Annabelle Ewing said:
“It was very disappointing that Alistair Carmichael did not attend the Welfare Reform Committee today. While everyone understands the importance of the commemoration on World War 1, Alistair Carmichael has a duty to appear before the Scottish Parliament and explain why the UK welfare system is ‘fantastic’ as he has previously claimed, and it would be good if it could be rescheduled.”
*David Mundell is the Conservative Party member of parliament for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (2014).