This week in the Commons we saw Westminster at its worst when Boris Johnson’s Tories voted to deny 1.4 million vulnerable children access to meal support during the school holidays.
Thankfully though this is an area devolved to Holyrood, and in Scotland our SNP government has committed millions of pounds to ensuring the children of families struggling due to the pandemic don’t go hungry during the school holidays.
Every single one of Scotland’s MPs voted in favour of extending free school meal provision, apart from the six Scottish Tory MPs – including their new leader Douglas Ross – who shamefully voted to deprive children of food in this time of crisis.
For anyone kidding themselves that the Tories had changed, it was a real eye-opener listening to some of the crass comments of Conservative MPs during the debate. Instead of showing compassion and humanity for families facing hardship, one Tory MP even said they couldn’t support government intervention to feed hungry kids because it amounted to “nationalising children”.
Such comments are appalling and tell you all you need to know about their priorities at Westminster. The key difference between the Scottish Government and this UK Government is that the SNP will always look for ways to use the powers we have to lift children out of poverty, whereas the Tories care little about using all the economic and welfare levers of Westminster to help the poorest in our communities.
The reality is that across these islands millions of families are facing financial hardship due to the short-sighted decision of the Tories to end the furlough scheme prematurely. Many will be forced to turn to the UK’s inadequate social security system and in this time of need free school meals are a lifeline for hard-pressed families.
Having grown-up in a household that relied on school meals, I know first-hand what a struggle it can be and there’s no shame in asking for help. In West Dunbartonshire our local council has made tackling holiday hunger a priority through its SHINE Fund which has helped thousands of local families to access support and free meals.
I also work closely with many of the local community groups, charities and advice services in Dumbarton and across West Dunbartonshire that can offer a helping hand.
If you’re struggling just now it’s important to know that help is available. For any constituents needing advice on where to turn please get in touch and I’ll do all I can to help. During the pandemic I’ve been running regular virtual advice surgeries every week by phone and video call – if you live in West Dunbartonshire and would like an appointment please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0141 952 2988.
This article was written for publication in the Dumbarton & Vale of Leven Reporter.