AN independent Scotland could bring an end to the use of food banks, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said today.
The Scottish Government today unveiled more than £500,000 of funding for 26 food aid projects around the country as new figures showed a 400 per cent jump in their use among hard-pressed Scots in recent years.
The SNP Deputy leader said the Coalition Government’s benefit cuts are behind the sudden rise, but a Yes vote in next month’s independence referendum could allow Scotland to bring an end to food banks.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t want a society where anyone is reliant on emergency food aid, but as long as we’re in a position of Westminster imposing policies that the majority of people in Scotland don’t want then that’s a situation we’re going to have to deal with.
“Far better that we have the powers in our own hands, access to our own resources and over time, not by waving a magic wand, we create a system whereby we don’t have people going to food banks to feed themselves.”
Ms Sturgeon said demand for food banks will not “disappear” the day after independence, and that it would be a long term goal if Scotland had power over welfare.
“We should aspire to have a country without food banks,” she added.
According to the Trussell Trust, the number of people who used their food banks in Scotland between 1st April 2013 and 31st March 2014 rose to 71,428 which is a 400 per cent increase and five times the number compared to the previous financial year. This includes more than 22,000 children who used food banks during this time period.
The Scottish Government’s Emergency Food Fund (EFF) is part of a £1 million investment in food aid, with £500,000 already committed to charity FareShare which redistributes surplus food from retailers to charities supporting their local communities.
Today’s funding of £518,000 will deliver help in 17 local authority areas. Ms Sturgeon made the announcement during a visit to Greater Maryhill Food Bank which is to receive almost £40,000.
But Labour’s social justice spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said the Scottish Government isn’t doing enough to tackle the causes of food banks and should back greater tax rises for the rich.
Ms Baillie said: “We in the Scottish Labour Party are more ambitious for Scotland than that. The Nationalists do not have a credible or costed plan for welfare in a separate Scotland. Scottish Labour will remove the need for foodbanks and we will build a fairer Scotland by restoring the 50p tax rate for people earning more than £150,000 a year.
“Warm words from Nicola won’t end poverty.”
Citizens Advice Scotland Policy Manager Keith Dryburgh said people from “all walks of life” use food banks.
But he added: “This is an issue disproportionally affecting people out of work and who rely upon the state as a safety net. One in 12 unemployed CAB clients needed a food parcel, and of CAB clients unable to work due to a disability, one in 26 needed a food parcel.”