At the beginning of this year, Douglas Hamilton, chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission, warned there was a “real danger of complacency setting in with politicians and political parties generally about tackling poverty”.
As 2018 draws to a close, a survey published today has found that more than a fifth of respondents had not eaten for a day because they could not afford to buy food.
In the past, people in such a situation would have been struggling to make ends meet on benefits. But the survey, by the Citizens Advice Scotland, found that 29 per cent of people who had a job had either skipped meals or reduced the amount of food they eat because of a lack of funds.
Derek Mitchell, the group’s chief executive, said: “For some people going hungry is the norm ... this study shows that many working people in Scotland are struggling to afford to buy food and in 2018, this is simply unacceptable.”
People do have a tendency to underestimate how much they eat, forgetting about snacks during the day, so polls on this subject may not be entirely accurate. The most recent Scottish Health Survey found 10 per cent of people in the poorest areas had gone hungry because of a lack of money.
However, if the picture is anything like as widespread as either survey suggests it should act as yet another a call to arms to add to others this year.
In July, Holyrood’s Education Committee published a report saying they were “appalled by some of the evidence it heard, including the amount of evidence received about children in Scotland going to school hungry”. And only yesterday Action for Children said that every day its staff “see first-hand the impossible choice that families living in practically Dickensian levels of poverty have to make”.
Such problems cry out for Scotland’s politicians to do something. But, as The Scotsman said yesterday, suggestions that the answer is to raise taxes should be treated with caution because of the risk of damaging the economy and making poverty even worse.
However, politicians have other weapons in their armoury. For example, companies that use illegal or unethical working practices or find ways to avoid paying the minimum wage should face a further clampdown. A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work is an idea that politicians of all parties should support.