Scotland’s relationship with food and austerity.

So what did you start the day with? A bowl of cereal, some porridge? A full Scottish breakfast with all the trimmings including the famous ‘tattle scone’? The very same tattle scone people complain about when they travel somewhere and it is not served to them and they get some alien substitute called a ‘hash brown’.

My relationship with food started young.My father was a shift worker at a steel plant in Lanarkshire ,long closed and demolished.My mother worked in a local wire ropes manufacturers in the canteen. Shift patterns and catering for the school day was complicated but with some sacrifice around sleeping times my father often cooked food for me and in the process told me how to cook good healthy meals for myself.



I loved nothing more than the smell of hot ‘drop scones’ on a griddle.We just called them pancakes. So when my big rough tough steelworker father wasn’t making drop scones we were up to all sorts. I also learned the staple, mince and tatties, and dough balls (dumplings) if we felt like it. A basic stew with carrots and maybe a bit of turnip all served with potatoes.

On special times of the year the food would be in part supplemented with fresh garden produce from his own plot ‘out the back’.  Potatoes, cabbages like footballs, turnips which could also be carved at Halloween and carrots that would choke a proverbial horse.

Even when Dads plot was over we would get some from his brother who had a bigger plot, because he arranged to grow food on not one but two neighbours plots, dishing out the harvest every autumn with great pride. These are strong memories but they are real ones not through rose-tinted glasses.

A range of simple meals was opened up to me from primary school age and looking back I can see how valuable that was at building a foundation of learning about food and what is good for you. Later in life I added layer after layer of knowledge about food and cooking. Yesterday a young visitor to the house aged 19 commented on the bacon grilling in the kitchen,(I had just made him a bacon roll.) “Oh that’s how you cook bacon? I might try that when I get back to Uni”. I realised some people’s relationship with food was very different from my own.

I took a quantum leap when academia put me in contact with over seas students.I would be about 20 years old and sharing a kitchen with people from Mauritius,Malaysia and Zimbabwe. It really opened up my senses to cook differently way before celebrity TV chefs came on to our small screens.

Not only that, I caught onto myself financially.Times were tough and teaming up with Malaysians to get food collectively by taking a journey to a cash and carry made economic sense. My previous efforts at making Batchelor’s Savoury Rice out of a tiny packet bought out of an overpriced campus Spar shop were now a distant memory.



In Scotland today the Trussell Trusts says it gave out 145,000 emergency food packages to people in crisis in 2016-17. That is an increase of 9% from the previous year. It has a network of 52 food banks but there may be many more distribution centres linked to one food bank.

The new report by The Trussell Trust examines the activity of its network of 52 food banks north of the border.

It reveals that 47,955 children in Scotland were among those it helped with three-day emergency food supplies last year.

And it found that low-income was the single biggest reason for referral to a Scottish food bank – affecting a quarter of those referred.

Problems with benefits were also a major factor.

Around 24% of those referred to the charity had suffered benefit delays, while 18% encountered difficulties with benefit changes.

ken-loach Ken Loach speaking at the STUC congress in Aviemore earlier this year accused the UK government of “conscious cruelty” by imposing benefit sanctions which he claims have led to an increase in the use of food banks. His I, Daniel Blake film told the fictional story of a man denied employment and support allowance.

“When the sanctions increased, the use of food banks increased. If your money stops and you are dependent on social security, you haven’t got a large bank account like Tory cabinet ministers – you have got nothing.

“And very shortly people have to take very tough choices – how do they survive? Often they don’t eat.

Frankenstein and the problem of playing God.

The UK welfare system is being radically altered.This did not start with the Tories, it was a journey begun by Tony Blair’s New Labour government and the so-called New Deal on welfare. Over the years political ideology has entered the process courtesy of Ian Duncan Smith( IDS). IDS had the audacity to visit Easterhouse in Glasgow while Tory leader in opposition to Labour and spoke about how ‘moved’ he was by the poverty he saw there.The system has been modified like some creation of Dr Frankenstein from a gothic novel, now it seems to be killing people not protecting them as the original welfare state intended.

The DWP defend the Universal Credit system, which collapses all benefits into one and is being rolled out across the UK. “Employment is the best route out of poverty, and there are now near record numbers of people in work in Scotland.”Under Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

Why is it then that some people that do up to three jobs to make a living still have to visit food banks ?

Talking to people who know about this, front line health care workers, teachers and social care workers it is clear the system is not supporting people but is punishing them.

Delays in payment of benefit due to sanctions are at the root of emergency food bank use. While these food banks are a welcome source of support at a time of crisis they also mask other problems in society.

School teachers tackling the ‘attainment gap’ talk about the ‘hungry hours’ school children face between leaving school and attending a ‘breakfast club’ the next morning. We have also seen a growth in summer activity clubs for children which include snack meals specifically to address the lack of free school meals in the holiday period.

Even worse however is the realisation that even with free school meals some of our poorest families are not claiming what is entitled to them. Pride,stigma and fear of paperwork brought about by parental literacy problems or a combination of all three?

Speech therapists will also tell you that children’s language skills are underdeveloped in areas where parents are out working long hours in 2-3 poorly paid jobs.Its not just a poverty of food its is poverty of time to be with the children.

While we talk about obesity in school children through lack of exercise and poor diet there is also the issue of ‘healthy weight’. Some children ,adults and older people in our society are not achieving or maintaining a healthy weight.

Give food to a hungry person and  be called good. Question why the person is hungry & be called a communist. – Sharon Grier


The Scottish government has helped people affected by welfare cuts and low incomes.A spokesman said: “A range of actions are needed to stop people having to rely on emergency food provision.

“The Scottish government has taken such action through our £1 million a year Fair Food Fund and more than £100 million a year to mitigate against welfare cuts, including our Scottish Welfare Fund.

  1. the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something.
    “the identification and mitigation of pollution”
    synonyms: alleviation, reduction, diminution, lessening, easing, weakening, lightening, assuagement, palliation, cushioning, dulling, deadening;

Mitigation is a word more closely associated with the prevention of flooding, or of boarding up houses to prevent damage being wreaked by hurricane Irma.

In this case it is preventing the worst aspects of suffering inflicted on the population by a Westminster Government on all its poorest citizens. Welcome though this is, this ‘mitigation’ is tackling the symptoms not the root cause of the harm being done to people.

Austerity ideology is the crime and our citizens are its victims, especially those with children to look after. When we dish out charitable food parcels people will praise you but when we point the finger at the cause we become dangerous.

The Cameron government introduced ramped up austerity budgets ,unopposed by Labour , and continued to increase the budget deficit .



Why are we only permitted to treat the symptom but not the ailment itself? Tory economics and the ‘blame the poor’, ‘make them suffer’ mentality is not only inhumane but it simply doesn’t work.

The recent development of revising our own welfare system in Scotland is also to be welcomed but it is just not enough. If we are to really make Scotland’s economy work for all its people we need to cut off the source of the pain-Westminster rule.

In the meantime we could start by having a concerted effort by all political parties which say they support equality to oppose the roll out of Universal Credit. Stop it now!

We know it will cause our people more pain , hunger and even death, so why is there not more opposition to it?

Enjoy your dinner.  G.

2 thoughts on “Scotland’s relationship with food and austerity.

  1. Pingback: Scotland’s relationship with food and austerity. | scotlandstill

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