FIGURES THAT REVEALED foodbank referrals throughout Scotland were at their highest ever levels have drawn strong criticism from Moray’s MP.
Angus Robertson has said that the fact thousands of Scots had to rely on foodbanks over the holiday was a “depressing indictment” on UK Government policies.
Figures produced by the Trussell Trust show that the number of foodbank referrals increased to over 60,000 in April to September 2015 – and 44% of these were as a result of benefit delays and cuts.
Giving evidence to the Welfare Reform Committee in June 2014, then-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.”
DWP statistics show that last year in December 3,274 people across the UK had their benefits stopped as a result of a sanction – not including those who already had a sanction in place.
Mr Robertson said: “Here in Moray, as across Scotland, our local food bank is unfortunately a sad but much needed reality. In a wealthy country like ours it is simply a disgrace that people are having to use these charitable services for the most basic human need of food.
“At Christmas the most important part of our day is often sharing food with our families and friends. Unfortunately, for too many food poverty is not just a thing of Christmas past – many families in Moray will add to the thousands of people across Scotland relying on emergency food aid over this festive period.
“The Moray Food Bank workers and volunteers do a tremendous job but I know it is a job that they all would rather wasn’t needed.
“Despite all of the denials from senior Tory Ministers, even David Mundell was forced to admit last year that benefit delays and sanctions are a big driver of food bank use in Scotland – and the widely condemned sanctions regime is one of the single biggest reasons.
“A year on and those same benefit delays and sanctions are still driving people into food poverty and to seek support from food banks
“The SNP supports a moratorium on sanctions until a comprehensive review has been conducted into their use and that is a point we have persistently made in both Westminster and the Scottish Parliament.
“The application of a sanction will almost always bring hardship for the person concerned but at Christmas this well mean additional stress and upset for low-income families.
“Food banks open at Christmas are a damning indictment of this Tory government’s failed austerity policies. The UK Government should do the decent, compassionate thing and halt the use of sanctions until they have got a grip on this discredited system.”