Most of us have, hopefully, had a great Christmas; enjoyed the presents, the toys, seeing family, the food. We certainly have. We are Muslims and enjoy sharing so many aspects of this special time of year with our friends, and of course the children have had lots of fun.
Speaking of food. In the fallout from Westminster benefit cuts through the Bedroom Tax, the sanctioning and withholding of so many Disability Allowances and the ever-rising price of food, Scots are suffering. As ever with Westminster actions, it is the poorest and most vulnerable who face the greatest challenges.
The Trussell Trust operates 43 food banks in Scotland and they anticipate providing food parcels to more than 2000 people during the festive fortnight. Between April and the end of November, they have helped feed 34,000 people; more than five times the total for the same period last year.
Other voluntary bodies are also seeing exponential rises in need. FareShare, run by the Cyrenians, distributes the food from supermarkets that has reached its sell-by date but not its use-by date. They expect to provide about 120,000 meals, nearly twice last December’s figure. The charity checks around all the homeless hostels, soup kitchens and children’s breakfast clubs and asks them what they can use.
These needy people are not only in socially deprived areas either. Affluent Dundee has the busiest food bank run by the Trussell Trust in Scotland.
Without those charitable donations, people would probably have gone hungry. We should all show our appreciation of what they do and support them as best we can.
But it shouldn’t need to happen. Surely in a civilised 21st century society, we must not tolerate such deprivation and need?
It gets worse.
Prime Minister, David Cameron, has rejected help from a European Union fund to subsidise the costs of running food banks. The Education Minister, Michael Gove, says it’s all down to financial mismanagement by families.
Playing to the anti-EU sentiment that is so rife in London and the south-east of England, some €26.4 million offered from Brussels was turned down. Yet again, the poorest and most vulnerable are pawns in a political point-scoring game.
While France, much the same size as the UK, will receive €443 million, Britain will draw down only €3.5 million. We can be confident that the UK government is not about to make up the other €22.9 million of its €26.4 million allocation.
To me, that sounds like nothing more or less than cutting off your nose to spite your face.