WEST of Scotland Green MSP Ross Greer discusses the increasing use of food banks across Argyll and Bute in this week's community column.


JUST five food banks across Argyll and Bute, including two in the Helensburgh and Lomond area, distributed 7,195 parcels from April 2017 to September 2018.

Food banks have become a shameful part of the UK’s story. Being a rare sight before the Tory-led Westminster Government came to power in 2010, they now provide more than a million emergency parcels each year.

Tory welfare policies are now the single biggest factor pushing up food bank use, especially for children. There’s no clearer example of this than the roll-out of Universal Credit.

The Trussell Trust, who run hundreds of food banks, found a 52 per cent increase in demand in the 12 months after Universal Credit roll-out. Claimants face a wait for their first payment of well over a month, and payments usually fail to meet basic needs. Yet Conservative MSP Maurice Corry recently claimed in the Advertiser that the introduction of Universal Credit has been “a positive change”.

Maurice is not a stupid man, so I couldn’t quite believe that he’d said this. People have literally taken their own lives after being forced on to Universal Credit. Everyone involved in fighting poverty, from children’s charities to churches to food bank providers, have condemned it.

The Tories’ aim wasn’t to make the system better; it was to punish the poor and vulnerable. There can be no other conclusion.

There are clear solutions and the Greens have delivered many of them. As more social security powers are devolved to Holyrood, we need to invest in a system designed to empower everyone and treat them with dignity. My Green colleague Alison Johnstone has already secured the end of sanctions against claimants in Scotland.

Two thirds of all people in poverty are in working households. If we want to tackle poverty, we need to raise the minimum wage to a real Living Wage and treat people like human beings, not numbers on a spreadsheet.