FEW images say more about the moral failings of the Westminster Government than the photograph circulating this week of the contents of food parcels distributed by the caterer Chartwells to replace the free school meals some children would be receiving if the pandemic had not forced their schools to shut.

The food parcels are a new initiative to replace vouchers worth £30 for two weeks which had previously been given during school lockdown.

The switch from vouchers to food parcels is itself questionable, coming from a misplaced belief that families can’t be trusted to spend the money on nutritious food rather than junk food, alcohol or crack cocaine.

Most families can be relied upon to feed their children properly if they are given the money to do so. The small minority who are not are hardly likely to cook a nutritious meal without the necessary guidance and help. The more likely option is that children in such families will go hungry, a social problem that Boris Johnson and his cronies are less likely to tackle than they are to introduce a universal income by tomorrow afternoon.

But the impact of the photograph was heartbreaking not just for the horrific insight it provided into the Government’s thinking but because of the content of the parcels.

One loaf, a can of beans, a few slices of cheese, two carrots, three apples, one tomato, two bananas and a few other scraps is hardly enough to provide a proper lunch for 10 days … and it’s certainly worth nowhere near the £30 given last year.

Of course the outcry following the publication of the photograph provoked the predictable political reaction. Johnson told the school meals campaigner and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford that he is committed to improving the food parcels and a “full review of the supply chain” is taking place. Rashford tweeted that the Prime Minister “agrees that images of hampers being shared on Twitter are unacceptable”.

Which prompts the question: why didn’t someone in Johnson’s government know what provisions were being made for the country’s most vulnerable children? Especially given that the last time Rashford had to act as England’s moral compass was when the Tories wanted to scrap free school meals during school holidays.

Westminster Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will now reinstate the voucher scheme and has given Chartwells a good talking to, leaving them in no doubt that the meagre rations were unacceptable.

Which is a good way short of the reaction most people would have expected and left the distinct impression of a government keen to see how little they could get away with giving without being caught out and having to face pubic fury.

And fury is exactly the right reaction. At least in Scotland we have an alternative … so how many more examples of Westminster’s moral bankruptcy do we need before deciding we can take no more?

I’m no believer in Scottish exceptionalism but it’s pretty much impossible to imagine a Scottish Government sanctioning the delivery of food parcels like these, not because MSPs are paragons but because they are human. Indeed Holyrood guidance allows for the provision of free school meals through cash, vouchers, food delivery or collection, in line with family preference.

But God forbid we should allow our justified rage at Westminster’s callousness to make us consider that we’d be a better, fairer country if we were independent. That would, according to journalist Alex Massie, make us fanatics.

After all, goes his argument, when we look at the work required to rebuild our world after the pandemic surely only fanatics would see an opportunity to recalibrate a world where greed has become normal and a desire for justice the object of derision.

WHEN we look at the havoc being unleashed just days after a disastrous Brexit deal cobbled together to save Boris Johnson’s political skin, surely only fanatics would come to the conclusion that we really couldn't do a lot better ourselves.

And only fanatics would suggest that we should have ambitions to emerge from Covid-19 inspired to protect our NHS, properly reward those who have saved lives and put their own at risk to protect us and to fashion an economic structure which does not seek to drive us into ruin for getting ill.

READ MORE: 'It's enough lunches for a child': Tory MP under fire for defending school meals parcel

Massie’s outburst came after deputy first minister John Swinney – a man less like a fanatic it would be hard to imagine – dared to suggest that campaigning for Scotland’s independence becomes more vital because of the lessons of Covid rather than less. This has been, after all, a pandemic which has ruthlessly targeted its most cruel weapons on the poor and the vulnerable.

Massie seems to believe it is his duty to hold independence-supporting politicians – and campaigners for that matter – to ridiculous standards which do not even enter the heads of those who support the constitutional status quo.

And let’s be under no illusion that the alternative to independence IS the status quo. Not devolution max. Not Gordon Brown’s oft-quoted but never enacted federalism. Stretching out before us are years and years of being dismissed as scroungers, outvoted by our more populous neighbour and treated as an annoying distraction.

Massie seems to believe that when a prime minister at Westminster blocks any attempt to hold another referendum it is because they genuinely believe there will be a better time to do so. So when Boris Johnson argues that a referendum would distract from the battle to bring Covid under control, too many journalists simply nod in agreement and advise us to wait patiently for London to decide when the right opportunity presents itself.

The truth is that those who are against independence will never believe the time is right. They said no before Covid struck. When Covid recedes they will find another excuse to say no again.

The truth is it is only independence that they so routinely dismiss. There was plenty of time for Brexit. Plenty of time to ignore all the evidence of an impending catastrophe. Plenty of time to put our exporters at risk, to undermine our fishing industry.

Fighting independence was so important in 2014 that the other political parties could barely wait to cast aside deep differences and personal animosity to join forces against it. And that united front remains in place for parties who endlessly rant about the dangers of independence while simultaneously accuse the Scottish Government of being obsessed with it.

The truth is that it is not those who believe we should seize the opportunity to shape a better future who are the fanatics but those who will not allow us to hope, or dream, those who want instead to strain every sinew replicating an economic system in which profits are worshipped and properly feeding children matters not a jot.