FOR many families in Scotland, the first week of August means the beginning of the end of the school holidays, and time to start preparing for another school year.

Even for the more fortunate of us, it still has its stressful moments. Shopping for new school shoes and uniforms is never a pain-free experience, as I’m sure most parents can testify.

These days, the list of requirements for children to produce on the first day of school is growing longer, and more expensive. One school in my constituency lists the following as essential items that every primary school-aged child must bring: a uniform, school bag, water bottle, pencil case, pencils, pencil sharpener, rubber, PE kit, a pair of gym shoes and a separate book bag. It’s difficult enough for the average family to keep up, but imagine preparing to get your children back to school without the financial means to invest in new clothes or equipment?

While the Scottish Government has taken some measures to reduce the burden on parents, such as introducing free school meals for children in primary one, two and three, there’s still much to do to support those families who need most help.

That’s why I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of local people across Clackmannanshire who have shown such awe-inspiring kindness over the past couple of weeks in donating to our local School Uniform Bank. Run by The Gate, one of our fantastic local charities in Alloa, their volunteers and staff have spent all weekend collecting huge piles of new and recycled clothing and school equipment in conjunction with our local Tesco supermarket. This extraordinary compassion has been replicated across the country as communities up and down Scotland look to give a hand up to those who need our support, whether that’s through appeals like this one, or donating to the ever increasing number of Foodbanks.

Every donation, no matter how large or small, helps to make life a little easier for families already at the end of their tether, some of whom are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table at home.

But while thousands of people across Scotland are digging deep into their own pockets to support others, true to type, the Tory Government at Westminster is looking to pile on the pressure on families in need. Although George Osborne’s budget was immediately labelled by many as a bonanza for the well-off, the detailed analysis of his proposals continues to emerge. It’s not good news.

Thanks to Aberdeen MSP Kevin Stewart, who worked with the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre to come up with the figures, we now know that around 200,000 families in Scotland will be adversely affected by the changes to tax credits announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last month. That’s a total of 346,000 children in Scotland alone who will shoulder the burden of these inequitable choices. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has previously calculated that each of these families will be worse off to the tune of around £1,000 a year, a huge sum for the less well off.

In this way, tax credits form the backbone of support we give to ordinary families who are working hard to make ends meet. They help to make work pay, heat homes and put food on the table for those who are working on a low income. For many they are the difference which means that children stay on the right side of the poverty line.

Politics is about choices. As much as these disgraceful plans have clearly spelled out the Tories’ scheme for having the poorest pay for tax cuts for the rich, the Labour Party have their own choice to make about whether to get on the side of the least well off, or to continue to let Osborne and Cameron off the hook by failing to provide an opposition worth the name at Westminster. It’s difficult to understand whose interests are best served by the Labour Party’s decision not to join with the SNP’s MPs and vote against these proposals.

However heartwarming it is to see the fruit of others’ generosity, it makes me sad and frustrated to watch the rise of food banks in our prosperous, generous and modern country. It’s a disgrace that some families will rely on the charity of strangers to clothe their children for school this year.

That’s why I choose to be on the side of those who need it most, and why I promise to fight the policies of this Tory government every step of the way.