SCOTLAND’S only Tory MP David Mundell was met by protesters shouting: “Shame on you” yesterday as he opened a Trussell Trust foodbank in Dumfries.
Local resident and trade union activist Joe McGurk said it was “absolutely disgraceful” that Mr Mundell, who denies austerity is behind soaring use of foodbanks, was opening Dumfries’s second such charitable facility.
More than 117,000 people were referred for emergency food help in Scotland between 2014 and 2015, a 63 per cent increase on the previous year, according to research by the Trussell Trust.
Mr McGurk said that Tory welfare cuts were directly linked to the growth of foodbanks, arguing that, “while the government slashes benefits left, right and centre and exonerates companies that use zero-hours contracts, they are ensuring that those already living on the poverty line are well and truly kept in the depths of austerity.”
Dumfries Trades Council secretary John Dennis suggested that a member of the Tory government must have some nerve to open a foodbank.
He noted that Mr Mundell “supports policies which have increased the level of poverty both locally in Dumfries and throughout the rest of the country.”
Mr Mundell continues to deny links between his party’s welfare cuts and the rise in the use of foodbanks, directly contradicting the Trussell Trust’s own research.
The trust defended its decision to invite Mr Mundell, stating that it was “standard practice” to invite the local MP to open a foodbank.
Trussell Trust network manager in Scotland Ewan Gurr said that he and Mr Mundell disagreed on whether welfare reform was linked to the increase demand for emergency food supplies and highlighted the fact that the number of people needing food parcels in Scotland had increased by 400 per cent after the attacks on welfare benefits started.
But Unite Community co-ordinator for Scotland Jamie-Max Caldwell told the Star that “foodbanks are a stark reminder that Tory austerity is not working and welfare reform is affecting communities such as the one that Mr Mundell represents.”
Mr Caldwell said that if Mr Mundell really wanted to help those that rely on foodbanks, he should call for an end to austerity.