South Scotland

David Mundell opens Dumfries foodbank amid protests

David Mundell
Image caption David Mundell opened a foodbank in Dumfries as protesters campaigned outside

Scotland's only Conservative MP has opened a foodbank in Dumfries as anti-austerity campaigners protested outside.

They shouted "shame on you" as David Mundell left the Trussell Trust facility after the launch event.

Earlier they had accused the Scottish Secretary of "sheer hypocrisy" for supporting the foodbank.

Mr Mundell said he wanted to work with local organisations to eradicate poverty in his constituency.

The MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale has previously questioned claims that the UK Govenment's welfare reform agenda is behind a rise in food bank use.

At the launch of the foodbank at Apex Scotland, he said he has not changed his views.

"For me as a local MP, it's not just about talking to organisations who agree with government policy or people who agree with me," he added.

"I want to speak to everybody who is active in my constituency."

Image caption Protestors outside the foodbank claimed Mr Mundell was guilty of "hypocrisy"
Image copyright Andrew Kerr
Image caption The BBC's Andrew Kerr tweeted a photo of protesters chasing Mr Mundell's car as he left the foodbank

Mr Mundell said he wanted to have a "constructive debate and discussion" about the issues which forced people to turn to emergency food relief.

"In the long term I don't think anybody wants to see food banks becoming an institution," he said.

"Foodbanks however are a common feature in all major western countries. Wealthy countries like Germany have foodbanks so the issues and reasons behind them are complicated.

"It would be much better if we could all work together to tackle those than being in constant confrontation."

Image caption The foodbank in Dumfries has fed 128 adults and 28 children since the end of March

Foodbank facts and figures

  • There are 50 Trussell Trust foodbanks in Scotland.
  • More than 117,000 referrals were made in Scotland for emergency food parcels in 2014/15 - a 63% increase on the previous year.
  • More than 90% of the food handed out by Trussell Trust foodbanks are donated by members of the public.
  • Last year the public donated 10,280 tonnes of food.
  • Everyone who uses a Trussell Trust foodbank is referred by a professional such as a social worker or health visitor.

Source: The Trussell Trust

The Trussell Trust said it was "standard practice" to invite the local MP to open a new foobank.

Ewan Gurr, their network manager in Scotland, admitted it had been seen as a controversial move.

He said: "The purpose of today was not to encourage people to agree with David's policies, with his views on the Scotland Bill, with the recent Conservative budget. It was simply to invite him as the local representative for the area that we seek to serve."

Mr Gurr added: "David and I disagree on whether welfare reform is linked to the increased demand for emergency food relief."

The number of people who needed food parcels in Scotland increased 400% after welfare reform was introduced, he said.

"We have a respectful disagreement on that but despite that disagreement we can still have a conversation about the effect that government policy can and indeed does have on individuals throughout Scotland."

Mr Mundell avoided protesters when he arrived at the foodbank, as he slipped in through a back door.

'Civilised society'

One campaigner, Lesley Ann McLelland, of Eastriggs, said it was "absolutely sickening and disgraceful" that the MP was opening the facility.

She said: "We should not need foodbanks in the 21st century. Scotland is an oil rich country yet we have foodbanks."

Earlier the Dumfries branch of the Trades Union Council (TUC) also criticised Mr Mundell's decision.

Secretary John Dennis said: "He was a supporter of the coalition government, which imposed monumental public sector cuts, and he is now a member the Conservative Government of David Cameron, which has announced huge welfare benefit cuts.

"He has thus supported policies which have increased the level of poverty both locally in Dumfries and throughout the rest of the country.

"How can he have the nerve to open a food bank? Food banks should simply not exist in a civilised society."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites