THE RIGHT TO FOOD
SNP snatch away hot evening meals from Glasgow's homeless and then blame them for "wastage"
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Food insecurity is complex and is about more than not having enough to eat. We should consider quality, quantity, availability when approaching this growing crisis in contemporary Scotland. And it is a growing crisis. Nutrition Scotland reveals that “pre-pandemic, 9% of adults in Scotland were food insecure and evidence shows that this number was already on a rise in the UK.”1
Given the pandemic has served to highlight this crisis, it we can begin to see a welcome mobilisation of public opinion on the issue.
And the desire to solve food insecurity really ought not be controversial. It should go without saying that the vast majority of people and politicians would echo Scottish Labour MSP Rhoda Grant when she described access to food as a “basic human right”2.
Indeed a peruse of the SNP’S 2022 local elections manifesto would, on the face of it, confirm that the need to tackle food insecurity was not something the political tribes of Scotland need fight about.
“The right to food is fundamental. We fully support the Scottish Government’s commitment to enshrine that right into law as the cornerstone of Scotland being a good food nation” -SNP 2022 manifesto 3
That all sounds really good, doesn’t it? But the problem is, words are cheap and actions are how we can really gauge the priorities of political parties. And sadly for the poorest and most vulnerable in Scotland, the ruling SNP say one thing during elections, but do another as soon as they can pocket your votes.
Despite the bold pledge in their manifesto about the right to food being “fundamental”, here in Glasgow the SNP have announced they are taking away evening meals from the homeless.
According to reporting by the Glasgow Evening Times, “Evening meals for homeless people being accommodated in hotels in Glasgow have been stopped”. Days after they were safely re-elected, the incumbent administration has snatched away hot meals from the city’s most vulnerable residents.
When pressed to explain themselves, the SNP run council said that
“Due to the amount of wastage (of evening meals) and the general consensus of service users being they like the lunches and breakfast, we stopped the evening meals.”4
Ah! So, it isn’t that Glasgow SNP are nasty or uncaring you understand, it’s just that these feckless homeless people keep wasting the hot meals they are being given.
If you believe that explanation, then hell mend you. We are talking about people who literally cannot afford a hot meal. These are people who cannot afford to buy food, and the SNP run council has not just snatched their evening meals from them, but actually tried to blame them for it.
This is the politics of the gutter.
Nutrition Scotland explains that in order to tackle food insecurity there are four things we should consider: availability, access, utilisation and stability.
Now given that we are talking about homeless people so destitute that they are being housed in emergency hotel accommodation, it is surely obvious that access to food is a problem. That the SNP would within days of retaining largest party status on the City Council move to destabilise homeless residents access to a hot evening meal is nothing short of disgusting.
All the more so when we realise that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (who represents a Glasgow constituency) has been pledging that she is committed to reducing the need for people to rely on food banks. The SNP at a national level have pledged to reduce the need for emergency food aid (e.g. food banks) by promoting more dignified and respectful approaches to access food.
More dignified and respectful approaches to access food? Is that what Glasgow SNP are doing by withdrawing hot meals for the destitute and blaming them for wastage?
Trussell Trust statistics reveal that in financial year 2014/15 approximately 119,212 emergency food parcels where given by their network in Scotland. That figure skyrocketed to 238,598 by financial year 2019/20. It is a fact that reliance on emergency food aid was rising rapidly in Scotland heading into the pandemic. So, there is little evidence of an SNP track record of success in promoting a more dignified and respectful approach to food access.
And keep in mind, those statistics only tell us about emergency good aid given out via the Trussell Trust network in Scotland. The Trust warns us that “Trussell Trust figures cannot be used to fully explain the scale of food bank use across the UK, because our figures relate to food banks in our network and not to the hundreds of independent food aid providers and community-groups also providing support”5. So the horrific reality is, the crisis of food insecurity across Scotland is very probably much worse than the Trussell Trust’s figures are able to report.
Scotland headed into the pandemic with rising food insecurity and growing reliance by families on food banks and other forms of emergency food aid. And we are leaving the pandemic behind with the SNP in Glasgow spiriting away hot meals from the homeless destitute.
But do not fret, I hear Nicola Sturgeon is jetting off to the USA to “underline Scotland's key interests in global issues”. Pity she does not seem all that interested in our domestic issues.
Nutrition Scotland (2021, 23 September), ‘Let’s talk about food security’, https://www.nutritionscotland.org/lets-talk-about-food-security/#:~:text=Pre%2Dpandemic%2C%209%25%20of,try%20to%20minimise%20the%20issue.
Rhoda Grant MSP (2021, 25 November), Draft Proposal Members Bill: ‘Right to Food (Scotland) Bill proposal’, Scottish Parliament,
SNP (2022), ‘Stronger For Scotland’ manifesto, pg20 https://issuu.com/hinksbrandwise/docs/2022-04-20c_snp_local_elections_manifesto_2022_a?fr=sN2VhMDIzNDU4NDI
Paterson, Stewart (2022, 9 May), ‘Evening meals for homeless in hotels stopped by council’, Glasgow Evening Times, https://www.glasgowtimes.co.uk/news/20123426.amp/
The Trussell Trust (2022), ‘End of Year Stats’, https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/