Scotland’s only Conservative MP was met by protesters as he launched a new foodbank.
Shouts of “shame on you” were heard from a group of anti-austerity campaigners gathered outside the Trussell Trust facility at the Apex Centre in Dumfries which was being opened by David Mundell.
Perhaps Mr Mundell has changed his views. Does he now agree that his Government’s policy is linked to a rise in hungry families?Joan Mcalpine
The Scottish Secretary, who is the MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, has previously questioned claims of a link between foodbank use and his party’s policy.
In February, he told Holyrood’s Welfare Reform Committee: ‘’The three issues that are most commonly raised in relation to foodbanks are sanctions, delays in benefit payments and low income. I do not accept that those three issues are welfare reform issues.’’
The Trussell Trust said it is standard practice to invite the local MP to a foodbank opening.
It said: ‘’The Trussell Trust has launched 50 foodbanks in 27 of Scotland’s local authorities.
‘’When a foodbank is due to launch, it is standard practice to invite the local elected Member of Parliament to say a few words about the opening of the local foodbank.
‘’It is also common to invite other elected representatives from the area to participate in the launch and that is the position we have taken with the Dumfriesshire foodbank, which will serve the people of Dumfries and beyond.
‘’David Mundell MP, as the elected representative for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, plays an important role in Westminster and we believe it is important for him, as well as the elected representatives from all other political parties, to be aware of the implications hunger has on the people of his own constituency.
‘’We welcome his willingness to participate in the launch and hear from the people who will be working to tackle food poverty in the area.’’
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has written to Mr Mundell asking if he has changed his stance on foodbanks.
She said: ‘’Perhaps Mr Mundell has changed his views. Does he now agree that his Government’s policy is linked to a rise in hungry families?’’
She added: ‘’The opening of a foodbank is nothing to celebrate - it is a direct consequence of the failure of David Mundell’s Conservative Government, which is represented by only one MP in Scotland.
‘’Mr Mundell should agree to transfer responsibility for all working-age benefits to the Scottish Parliament so that we can undo the terrible damage his Government’s policies are inflicting on our most vulnerable citizens.’’
Figures published by the Trussell Trust in April revealed that more than 117,000 referrals were made in Scotland for emergency food parcels in the last financial year. This showed a 63% increase north of the border.
The charity said the data indicates that despite signs of economic recovery, the numbers of people turning to foodbanks continues to grow.
Mr Mundell said: “Throughout 16 years as an elected representative in Dumfriesshire, I have consistently supported and engaged with local organisations, regardless of whether or not they support Government policy.
“That’s my job as local MP. I have worked closely with the Trussell Trust in Peebles and will do so here in Dumfries. We have had a very productive discussion this morning and I have had the opportunity to thank staff and volunteers.
“This facility operated by Apex will do important work to support some of my constituents who find themselves in difficulty, alongside the support which the UK and Scottish governments and the local council provides.
“As I have said before, the reasons behind foodbank use are complex and varied and every individual case is different. Rightly these important issues are debated regularly in both the UK and Scottish parliaments.
“Disappointingly some people continually see this as an opportunity to score political points, which makes constructive discussion difficult. However, that is the way forward if we are to achieve the eradication of poverty everyone wants to see.”