Food banks do not a case for independence make

‘The current SNP strategy is to highlight the existence of food banks in Scotland as a shorthand for the failure of the UK and to hint that they could be ended in an Independent Scotland.

‘I would like to introduce some little known information into the debate which provides some counterbalance.

‘Food banks were invented in the US in 1967, the first French one was opened in 1984 and the first UK one was opened in 2000 in Salisbury by a couple who had worked to help Bulgarian orphans. There are at least 918 food banks in Germany. (I will provide two links at the end)

‘Foodbanks are Scotland becoming a normal European country. Many of them are run by churches and they provide a practical way for people to help those less fortunate than themselves. Far from being a sign of failure they are an enriching example of human compassion, faith and social cohesion. Foodbanks are a social phenomenon that have taken off in the UK in recent years, having spread from the continent. Using them as a simplistic political football insults the thousands of people who contribute, who run and who use them.’


That post appeared yesterday evening on the Facebook page of a local Better Together group. Within an hour it had gathered over thirty replies. A few were supportive. Most condemned it in, for example, the following terms

Get a handle on yourself

What we are now seeing is a dramatic upturn in hunger and malnutrition … This is a political decision and we will fight it politically until noone is starving any more

I can’t believe what I just read…

you [sic] compassion and understanding of fellow human beings does not exist

This is an indicator that capitalism is failing

just highlights how unequal modern Britain is

Seriously? Foodbanks are good? Is this a parody page?

I am utterly disgusted and appalled at anyone who believes this tripe and uses it in their ‘argument’ for No (although I appreciate it’s difficult for you now and scraping the barrel has become a necessity!). The implicit lack of morality, respect, and self-esteem in that one sentence is horrifying. PROFOUND SHAME ON YOU!


Is this page run by George Osborne’s sock puppet? It’s like dispatches from another planet.

and so on.

Understandably, whoever has access to the Facebook page pulled the original post before the discussion heated up. I was waiting for the litany of outrage to build up to the inevitable ‘Obscene!’ but it didn’t reach that stage.

Don’t misunderstand me.

I don’t think food banks are inherently a good thing. But they do good and in the given circumstances it’s better to have food banks than not have them. If you follow the links above, which I suspect none of the commentators on the original post did, you’ll find a more nuanced account of food banks in Europe than any Facebook exchange will generate. And yes Germany, recession-proof economic miracle Germany, does have over 900 food banks. And they’re struggling to keep up with demand.

What you won’t find in the Facebook exchange is anyone saying, ‘I work for/volunteer at/help fund/donate food to/use a food bank and I think …’

You won’t because that’s not what it’s about, is it?

It’s about marshalling every argument you can, relevant or not, in favour of independence. I suspect that none of the outraged commentators quoted above have ever had anything to do with a food bank on either side of the counter.

The Better Together Facebook person was right that the SNP’s claim that food banks highlight the failure of the UK is fallacious and that ‘using them as a simplistic political football insults the thousands of people who contribute, who run and who use them.’

Food banks are neither an argument for nor against breaking up the United Kingdom. In that respect, they are like many of the other arguments made by the Yes campaign.


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