On 6 May, voters in Scotland will elect new Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) for their communities and a new government for Scotland. While ongoing Covid-19 restrictions mean fewer of us will have had aspiring MSPs chapping our doors or leaflets thrown into our hands on the high street, these elections are an important turning point for Scotland.
While the constitution remains top of the political agenda for many, it is a sobering fact that levels of poverty in Scotland are stubbornly high. Right now in Scotland, one in four children are growing up in poverty and we know that, since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, more people than ever have experienced destitution, unable to afford the essentials that we all need to eat, stay warm and dry, and keep clean. We also know that poverty is not inevitable. We can change this.
As Scotland comes out of lockdown, we can do things differently. We have the chance to build a better, brighter future for our communities – one where people are not forced to seek emergency food and where everyone can afford the basics.
So, these elections really do matter. They are an invaluable opportunity to shape the priorities of our future MSPs and to persuade our new government to act to end the need for food banks in Scotland.
Every single one of the 129 new MSPs elected to the Scottish Parliament can use their power and influence to deliver the changes we need to work towards a hunger free future. Our job is to make sure that happens, to ensure this is their top priority.
That is why in these elections, we are calling on all Holyrood candidates to commit to working to end the need for food banks if they are elected and for the newly elected Scottish Government to develop an action plan in the first year of the new parliament to make this happen. We need a plan for change that:
- Ensures everyone can afford the basics: People are forced to charities for emergency food when there isn’t enough money for the essentials. MSPs should support a cash-first approach to increase household incomes instead of relying on the distribution of emergency food. This means using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to improve the sufficiency, accessibility, and responsiveness of benefits, in particular the Scottish Welfare Fund, as well as reduce the prevalence of insecure work.
- Helps local services work together to ensure people get the right support at the right time: MSPs should commit to ensuring that there is a robust network of local support that prevents a short-term crisis becoming long-term hardship, helping local services work together to provide support which maximises incomes, where food banks become the last resort.
- Involves people with direct experience of poverty and local food banks in shaping an action plan to end the need for food banks: MSPs should work with people with direct experience of poverty in their community and work with food banks on how to deliver an ‘exit plan’ for ending the need for emergency food.
We are grateful to everyone who has pledged support for our campaign already, but we still have more to do. And that is why we are asking for your help to contact local candidates and ask them ask them to pledge to work to end the need for food banks.
It will only take a couple of minutes but with your support, we can ensure that ending the need for food banks in Scotland is top of the agenda for those lucky enough to be elected to the Scottish Parliament next month. Ask your future MSPs to make the pledge now
If you have slightly more time and live in the Glasgow area, why not sign up to attend the Glasgow Southside Food bank Hustings on 29 April? Hosted by Glasgow SE and SW food banks, this is your chance to hear directly from Nicola Sturgeon (SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland), Anas Sarwar (Scottish Labour leader) and representatives of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Conservatives, about how they will end poverty in Scotland. You can sign up for the election hustings (and submit a question) here.
And finally, if you haven’t already done so, you can make a difference by joining our campaign for a hunger free future.
Together, we can make change happen and end the need for food banks in Scotland.