In Dumbarton and across West Dunbartonshire our communities continue to make progress in the fight against Covid-19. Case numbers have reduced significantly, giving us real hope with the rollout of the vaccine that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
As we look to the months ahead we can do so with a sense of optimism; however, for many families the financial impact of the pandemic continues to take its toll.
This week the Joseph Rowantree Foundation published a report highlighting the Tory UK government’s shameful record of pushing hard-pressed households into hardship. The study found that across the UK 2.4 million people experienced destitution in 2019, including 550,000 children – a 52% increase since 2017.
The British government likes to pat itself on the back for borrowing billions to finance the furlough scheme, but every week at my advice surgeries I hear from local families struggling due to gaps in support and the woeful inadequacy of the Tories’ Universal Credit system.
After a decade of Tory austerity the pandemic has shone a light on the UK’s failure to tackle deep-seated poverty across these islands. Too many families with children are having to turn to foodbanks to get by and the SNP in Scotland is determined to do all we can to address that.
The First Minister has just announced plans to make Scotland the first nation in the UK to provide free year round school breakfast and lunches for all primary pupils. The SNP is also introducing the Scottish Child Payment, which alongside the Best Start Grants and baby box we hope will help relieve the financial pressures facing many families.
However, it’s clear that the Scottish Government’s efforts to tackle child poverty will continue to be undermined for as long as Westminster holds the key levers of power.
With the hapless Boris Johnson again ignoring calls from Scotland’s MPs to extend the Brexit transition period, it appears the spectre of a damaging exit from the EU also looms large. Whether no-deal or low-deal, it is beyond reckless for the Tories to press on with an extreme Brexit in the middle of a crisis that risks jobs, businesses and livelihoods.
That makes next year’s Holyrood elections all the more important in ensuring that Scotland’s future can be in Scotland’s hands. I’m delighted that SNP members have now selected our candidate for Dumbarton, Toni Giugliano. Toni is an experienced and dedicated candidate who I know will work tirelessly to tackle inequalities in our communities. I look forward to the campaign ahead and working alongside Toni to secure Scotland’s independence and the powers we need to escape Brexit and help eradicate child poverty here once and for all.
This article was written on 11th December for publication in the Dumbarton & Vale of Leven Reporter.