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‘Devastating’ photo of Glasgow food queue shows ‘need for action’

Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar called on the Scottish Government to do more to support people living in poverty after viral photo of food queue.
Kindness Homeless Street Team say more than 200 people queued up in sub-zero temperatures on Monday. Credit: Kindness Homeless Street Team

Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar has called for “urgent action” to lift Scots out of poverty after a photo showing 200 people queuing in the snow for food in the city’s George Square was met with a furious reaction online. 

“This is a devastating photo that exposes the reality faced by too many people in our towns and cities,” said Sarwar.

“We have shameful levels of poverty in Glasgow and a homelessness crisis that requires urgent action.

“The Kindness Homeless Street Team and other charities providing support for people in the city do incredible work and deserve our thanks.”

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The Scottish Government has spent more than £140 million to tackle food insecurity during the pandemic, according to a spokesperson, including £65 million spent in Glasgow. 

Holyrood also provided cash to allow families to tackle food and fuel poverty with an additional £22 million put into the Scottish Welfare Fund to help local authorities to support people in need.

“This makes clear the need to continue to tackle poverty and inequality,” a Scottish Government spokesperson told The Big Issue.

The UK’s food poverty rate is among the highest in Europe and food campaigners estimate 8.4 million people across the country live in food poverty.

Some of the food laid out by the Kindness Homeless Street Team for the people who need it in Glasgow. Credit: Kindness Homeless Street Team

“But it shouldn’t be like this” said Sarwar. “We need to stop the SNP’s cuts to local authorities so that they can invest in vital services, tackle poverty through measures such as an increase in the Scottish Child Payment, build 60,000 social homes in places of greatest need, and ensure the next five years is a Covid Recovery Parliament that leaves no one behind.”

Sarwar, who is running for the Scottish Labour leadership, is the latest to condemn the state of food poverty during the pandemic.

As the photo of the food queue went viral on Wednesday, social media users shared their anger.

One woman wrote: “Ridiculous. This is happening all over the country. The UK Government should try standing from the end of the queue in any weather.”

Another added: “We’re one of the richest countries in the world and the fact we have food bank queues like this is fucking shameful. Politicians have failed this country.”

Lisa Currie, who was in the queue pictured in the photograph, told The Big Issue she would be “stuck in the flat with nothing” without the food provided by Kindness Homeless.

“This makes clear the need to continue to tackle poverty and inequality,” a Scottish Government spokesperson told The Big Issue.

“It is absolutely essential that the UK Government acts now to make permanent the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and extend it to people on other benefits. Removing this support risks pushing a further 60,000 people into poverty in Scotland and removes vital support when it is needed.

“The Scottish Government is working to ending the need for food aid through our commitment to bold measures to put more money in people’s pockets, including our new Scottish Child Payment and our commitment to the Fair Work Action Plan and promoting the real Living Wage.”