A STUDENT who has launched a petition on the Scottish Parliament website calling for the Scottish Government to put its current underspend towards foodbanks in Scotland’s deprived areas says he has been subjected to a backlash of Twitter abuse from cybernats and accused of damaging the reputation of the SNP government.
John Beattie, 32, who is completing a PhD in bioethics at the University of the West of Scotland, started the petition after the Glasgow South West foodbank in Govan was on the brink of running out of supplies earlier this year.
A few weeks earlier, he had been asked to make an emergency appeal for donations on a programme he hosts on a local community radio station.
“I thought the petition would be something everyone could support. But then I started getting a backlash from SNP supporters online,” said Mr Beattie.
“The abusive comments on my Twitter account were things like ‘You’re making the SNP government looking bad’, ‘It’s not their fault’ and ‘Why don’t you go and do some research?’.
“It seems to be that for some SNP supporters, independence should come regardless of the cost and it doesn’t matter about the human collateral.
“There is a massive crisis ready to blow up in Glasgow with volunteers from many of the most hard-hit areas in the city telling us how much they are struggling to meet demand.
“I think that if the petition was directed towards a Tory government I would have collected thousands of signatures with very little criticism.
Mr Beattie, who grew up in Govan, also said that he had met with similar hostility at austerity rallies, including one in Glasgow’s George Square last month, when he asked people to sign a paper petition on the issue.
Latest figures from the Trussell Trust, the biggest foodbank provider in the UK, show there were 117,689 referrals in Scotland for those in need, including over 36,000 children in 2014-2015. This was a 65 per cent increase from the previous year.
Claire McCunnie, development officer at the Glasgow South West foodbank, which is overseen by the Trussell Trust, said despite collection points including Tesco in the Silverburn shopping centre and at Sainsbury’s at the Braehead shopping complex, stocks could run low.
“Despite all the publicity about foodbanks, people still feel very embarrassed when they come in,” said Ms McCunnie. “We’re seeing a range of ages from single people to families with kids and people aged over 65.”
Ewan Gurr, Scotland network manager for the Trussell Trust, said: “I believe the Scottish Government must continue to raise the profile of this issue and resource those who ensure our people do not starve or become malnourished.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We are doing everything possible with the resources and powers we have to tackle inequalities and food poverty at a time of cuts from Westminster. We are investing around £296 million from 2013-14 to 2015-16 in anti-poverty measures.”