Graeme’s Column

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For the first time in a couple of years, the summer parliamentary recess has afforded me the chance to fill my diary with constituency visits.

Thanks to the easing of the pandemic and associated restrictions, I’ve been able to get stuck back into the most enjoyable aspect of the job of an MSP.

I don’t mind admitting, though, to having been left with mixed emotions over two such visits – namely those to the Lighthouse Kids Clothes Bank in Arbroath and the Kirriemuir Food Hub.

No one could attend either of these projects and not be struck by the generosity and dedication of the volunteers who run them.

Willingness to give up your time to help fellow citizens in less fortunate circumstances is a truly admirable trait, and says much about the kindness of spirit and decency of those individuals.

But I also could not escape a feeling of discomfort – embarrassment, actually – that in a wealthy country like this we have a need, sadly a growing need, for clothing and food banks.

That food insecurity exists in a society as rich in resources as ours, when there is enough food to meet the needs of all citizens, is shameful.

And whilst it is entirely right, from an environmental perspective, that we maximise the usage of clothing, it still sits uncomfortably with me that need is the major driver behind clothing banks such as the one in Arbroath.

The sad reality is that, as the continuing impacts of Brexit and the cost of living crisis bite, so demand for services such as these will grow.

None of us are immune to the spiralling costs associated with heating and eating. For some though, especially those on very fixed incomes, the financial toll is beyond challenging.

The Scottish Government is committing considerable resource to mitigating these impacts, but the present situation requires more than the commendable efforts of the administration at Holyrood operating under limited powers and budget.

We need the UK Government at Westminster to wake up to the damage its policy direction is causing, and show even a shred of the compassion and decency demonstrated by those folk volunteering in food and clothing banks here in Angus and elsewhere.