THE cost of food has been on people’s minds since the start of the Tory cost of living crisis.

The price of basic ingredients has soared, and there is an ever-growing need for both food banks and emergency food parcels – it is a worrying trend that shows no sign of slowing down, and the Westminster Tory government shows no sign of a willingness to help.

In fact, while I sat to write this column, the UK’s latest inflation figures were released. The Office of National Statistics reported that the price of food rose at the second-highest rate in 45 years.

The normalisation of food poverty is a pandemic in itself.

Consecutive Westminster Tory governments have dismantled the social security system and caused economic chaos – resulting in people being unable to place food on the table. The reliance on food banks must be seen as a systemic failure in the UK’s social security system, as well as a symptom of remaining within an unequal union.

It sickens me that it is now commonplace to read reports of formula milk being stolen, or statistics showing there are more food banks than McDonald’s. The ability to purchase food has almost become a luxury.

Ensuring that people are able to put food on the table is not an unreasonable expectation, it is a necessity. A necessity that the Westminster Tory government seems to have forgotten about.

The use of food banks should not be normal – and I strongly believe that we should always remind ourselves of this. It is not normal that people rely on the goodwill of others and charity to be able to meet the basic need of eating – but it has become normal, and it is a failing of the Westminster Tory government; a government that has sat by, making the political choice to take little to no action to remedy the problem it has created.

The problem is, however, that food banks were never intended to become a permanent solution to tackling hunger and poverty. Their rapid emergence comes from Tory reluctance to invest in a social security system that protects the most vulnerable in society.

Food banks have now become a lifeline for far too many households and, as such, we are experiencing an increasing trend whereby charities and local organisations are playing the role of the state.

I know this first-hand from working with organisations in my Airdrie and Shotts constituency such as Paul’s Parcels.

It is a lifeline charity for people across Shotts and the surrounding villages. Paul’s Parcels runs projects that remove the need for people to choose between paying bills or buying food. I recently volunteered at its community fridge and the team have just finished their “Meet, Heat and Eat” project, with the hard-working group delivering around 3000 meals to those struggling with the rising cost of food.

I’m also helping Airdrie Foodbank find premises – it is struggling with the cost of renting a facility to store supplies. Yes, you read that correctly – a charity that provides food for many of my constituents cannot afford to rent a space to store the supplies. The very charities that are propping up the broken system are themselves struggling with the cost of running the service that helps keep food on the tables of households. It is simply unsustainable.

Short-term measures like these are not viable solutions to solving the entrenched inequality that has been created by Tory austerity policies. We have witnessed consistent underfunding of the social security system, but if we are to create long-term change, the Westminster Tory government must urgently rethink its approach and attitude towards welfare.

The Scottish and Westminster governments take two different paths – and not tackling food poverty is a political choice from Westminster.

Within its limited powers, the SNP Scottish Government is mitigating against Tory austerity. In the last financial year, it allocated almost £3 billion through a range of measures which help alleviate the cost of living impact on households.

Maintaining the Scottish Welfare Fund, tripling the Fuel Insecurity Fund and uprating the Winter Heating Payment are just some of the measures being taken by the Scottish Government – but these measures are being taken with both hands tied behind Scotland’s back.

I am proud that in Scotland we have built our own welfare system that is constructed on the understanding of dignity, fairness and respect. The Westminster government must follow suit, changing the way it views social security.

Instead, the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt failed to reinstate the Universal Credit uplift, as well as scrapping the benefit cap and two-child limit. Our call as SNP MPs in Westminster remains clear – the Tories must use all the powers available to them to tackle the cost of living crisis.

The House of Commons Library found that the UK Government’s planned expenditure on Trident renewal for 2023/24 is £3bn.

This is just a small glimpse of a Tory government that has its priorities all wrong – one that is happy to fund nuclear weapons, rather than supporting households during the cost of living crisis.

As charities, food banks and businesses prop up a broken system, the Tories must take ownership of the system they have broken.

I want to live in a country where food banks do not exist – not because people should not have access to emergency food, but because we have built a social security system so strong that no-one slips through the net.

It has never been clearer that Scotland should have the full powers of independence – to build a stronger, more dignified, fairer and respectful social security system that sees foodbanks as a distant memory of a broken and unequal Union.

If you are aware of any office space that can house Airdrie Foodbank, please call me on 01236 793900 or email me:

The payment for this article will be donated to Paul’s Parcels in Shotts.