I FORGET how many times I have written in this column and elsewhere about how I think the SNP need to talk about the “why” of independence, not the “how”.

We will build support for independence by using the powers we do have well, and make the case for more powers we do not yet have by setting out what we’d do with them.

Take drug laws – Scotland has a shameful record on drugs for a million different reasons, but lacks all the powers to deal with all aspects of the crisis.

In finally getting the safe consumption rooms trial over the line, we prove that we want powers to change things, precisely because the status quo isn’t good enough.

So, it is all the more infuriating to read the latest report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation titled Destitution in the UK 2023, which exposes the harsh truth of poverty across these islands.

The report reveals how mismanagement by successive UK governments has only intensified systemic poverty in the UK, and Scotland with it, for far too long.

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The findings of this report are outrageous and make for some tough reading. It is a collective failure and should give us all pause. A testament to the devastating impact of Westminster’s flawed economic and social model, that one of the richest countries on earth grapples with such shocking levels of destitution.

But, there is a sliver of good news in that Scotland had the lowest increase in destitution (and even as I write that I wince) since 2019 when compared to the rest of the UK, and that policies implemented by our Scottish Government and Parliament on free school meals and the Scottish Child Payment have made a tangible difference to people’s lives.

Where we have had powers, we’ve used them to make life better and this report proves it.

Yet the bigger picture remains grim, and I didn’t come into politics to mitigate or ameliorate a truly broken system. The key findings from across the UK are an indictment of Westminster’s failures. Some 3.8 million people experienced destitution in 2022 – an unprecedented 61% increase since 2019.

Among them, there are approximately one million children, an astonishing 88% increase since 2019. These individuals are trapped in destitution because they can’t afford to meet their most basic physical needs: staying warm, dry, clean, and fed.

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The number of people in the UK experiencing destitution has more than doubled in the last five years, soaring from 1,550,000 in 2017. Since 2017, the number of children experiencing destitution has nearly tripled, a shocking increase of 186%. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of those experiencing destitution have a disability or chronic health problem.

And the UK social security system, surely, designed to protect people, is failing spectacularly – with an astonishing 72% of those in destitution already receiving benefits.

The numbers speak volumes.

We’re dealing with a dire situation here, in Scotland without the main powers and budgets to fight it. People are struggling to meet their most basic needs: food, shelter and warmth.

In Maslow’s often shared hierarchy of needs, these are the building blocks for someone’s life. How can we hope for Scots to become engaged, active citizens when so many are locked in a struggle just to survive the week?

They’re cold because UK governments broke the energy markets – and continue to squander Scotland’s abundance of renewable energy. They’re damp because UK governments broke the housing market – leaving millions in badly insulated, shoddily built and poorly maintained homes.

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And they’re struggling to keep clean and fed because this UK Government has crashed the economy, failed to avert a cost of living crisis, and put up barriers between the UK and the EU – the biggest single market in the world.

Yes of course Covid hit all countries, but these numbers should surely give even the most ardent Unionist pause.

The UK isn’t working.

In Stirling, local councillors and I are worried about a visible rise in homelessness and poverty, misery of a sputtering UK economy.

These are the real, tangible costs of the Union for Scotland – poverty, misery and destitution. The SNP-led Scottish Government continues to do what we can under devolution to protect our communities from the failure of UK governments, of all stripes. But with fixed budgets and limited powers, mitigation is a long road.

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Independence will bring the powers to right all these wrongs, but in order to make that debate less abstract we should, and we will, also campaign on getting individual powers to Holyrood and what we’d do with them.

The powers of a normal country to regulate a broken energy or housing market, protect the right to fair and rewarding employment, nurture innovation and grow our economy sustainably for everyone’s benefit.

This is the "why" of independence, as spoken to so well by our First Minister at last week’s SNP Conference.

It really is a rotten state of affairs. The UK is the sick man of Europe and I say that with no pleasure whatsoever. And while the Scottish branch of the UK Labour Party may think that "Not the Tories (just the same policies)" is a winning formula, it won’t address the underlying flaws in the UK economic-social model.

Scotland’s hope lies in independence in Europe – armed with the powers we need to properly tackle the scourge of poverty and destitution once and for all.