Blame ‘Big Society’ cop-out, not each other

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The current spat about food banks in Dundee deflects attention from the real issue, which is that they are the clearest possible sign that the Prime Minister’s Big Society is succeeding as a policy.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury alerted Christian organisations like the Trussell Trust in June 2011 to the dangers of this government initiative to shrink the state and hand more control of services to volunteer groups and charities, warning that it might be a “stale slogan” and a euphemism for “an opportunistic cover for spending cuts”.

This much was apparent in an address to the Council of Christians and Jews at a reception in Downing Street in 2012, where David Cameron reaffirmed his Big Society idea that “there’s a huge space between government and the individual that can be filled by organisations, faith-based organisations perhaps in particular, that can deliver great public services, that can do great things in terms of tackling some of the problems of our time”.

There can be no greater witness to the problems of our time than food banks, a clear sign that the poor are both increasing in number and being made poorer. We shared Rowan Williams’ concern then as we do now, that while at grassroots level the churches, secular charities and the donating public are delivering a valuable service, they are all being seen as convenient patsies by a government intent on offloading the financial and social responsibility for the poor on to volunteerism.

The irony – that this is being carried out by a government whose ministers tell us that this is still a Christian country and that they are proud to “do God” – will not, I hope, be lost on the Reverend Robertson.

Alistair McBay

National Secular Society

Atholl Crescent

Edinburgh

SNP opposition to some 
welfare cuts is very understandable, as some people will be hurt, but the whole episode does rather smack of opposition as a knee-jerk reaction; responsible parties know that the Welfare Bill is £200 billion and rising, that government borrowing is still at record levels.

There is a bigger picture, but it doesn’t seem to feature in the fantasy world that is SNP economics.

William Ballantine

Dean Road

Bo’ness

Janice Thompson, Catriona Clark and Douglas Turner (Letters, 22 July) clearly have no idea of parliamentary procedure.

The worrying thing is that the Scottish MPs seem to have the same problem.

To vote against the Welfare Bill at this stage is an 
empty political gesture and ranting about the Labour MPs abstaining is frankly a cheap shot.

The time for opposition to provisions in the bill is when it is before committee.

At that stage we will know who is the informed opposition.

Hamish Wilson

Ware Road

North Berwick