Labour’S Jim Murphy has pledged to end the need for food banks in Scotland.
After making a private visit to an Edinburgh distribution centre for emergency food supplies, he outlined plans for a £175 million Scottish Anti-Poverty Fund, which he said Labour would establish with savings made from abolishing the bedroom tax.
The Scottish Labour leader branded food banks “a moral disgrace” and said it was time to call a halt to food poverty in Scotland.
He said: “It is a scandal that thousands of Scots are forced to exist on food hand-outs, and worse that for too many the only hot meal they can afford is a Pot Noodle or Cup-a-Soup.
“The number of Scottish families forced to depend on food hand-outs has rocketed in the last three years. It’s a disgrace that in a country as rich as ours so many people have to rely on being fed by charity.
“After five years of the Tories, even having a job doesn’t guarantee freedom from poverty.”
He said Labour would extend crisis grants for people in emergency situations, support financial advice services and promote credit unions as an alternative to legal loan sharks.
“We will drive up living standards by banning exploitative zero hours contracts, raise the minimum wage and extend the living wage.”
Visiting the Toots play cafe at the Inch Park community sports club in Gilmerton Road, Mr Murphy also launched an attack on the SNP’s social justice agenda, calling the nationalists “a pale imitation of the real thing”.
He said: “For them, social justice is the politics of convenience; for Labour, it’s the politics of commitment. The Labour Party was formed for reasons of social justice; the SNP was formed for reasons of separation. If you want a social justice government, Labour’s the only show in town.”
And he took a swipe at the Tories too, over their approach to poverty.
He said: “David Cameron is the type of prime minister that, if he sees a drowning man he tells him to swim harder. We can’t have that politics of abandonment that says to the poor ‘Try harder, work harder, it’s your own fault’.
“Unfortunately that’s what we have at the moment with David Cameron, a prime minister who is tone deaf to the cries of change coming from Scotland and so many other parts of the UK.
“He is genuinely in denial. I think he thinks the rest of the country is just like his social circle.”
Mr Murphy remained upbeat about Labour’s chances in the election, despite stubbornly poor poll ratings for the party in Scotland.
He argued lots of people were only just beginning to think about the election. “As I said when I first took over this job, I think the polls will turn big and they will turn late, when people start to concentrate on the choice that faces Scotland.
“Up until now some people have been thinking about last year’s disagreement rather than this year’s decision; they have been thinking about the referendum rather than the general election. We can change these polls and I’m determined we will.”
And he accused the Tories of using the SNP to attack Labour.
“David Cameron can’t win seats in Scotland so he needs someone else to beat Labour for him. Therefore he will do whatever it takes. There is no tactic too low for David Cameron to boost the SNP in Scotland. It’s a politics of divide and rule – if Scotland is divided, Cameron gets to rule.
“It’s as transparent as you would expect from such a superficial prime minister.”