Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil says the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions must come clean on whether or not he plans to shut down a charity providing food to thousands of Scots suffering at the hands of Westminster welfare reforms.

Recent media reports state that Iain Duncan Smith’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, Tory MP Andrew Selous, told Chris Mould of the Trussell Trust that the “Government might try to shut you down” due to the charity’s public campaigning on poverty. The Trussell Trust has previously accused the DWP of “belittling” its work after Neil Couling made a series of false statements to the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee on the charity’s work.

In a letter to Iain Duncan Smith, the SNP has asked for an explanation of comments from his senior aide threatening to shut down foodbank charity the Trussell Trust for being critical of the Westminster government.

Commenting, Angus MacNeil MP said:

“This threatening behaviour is utterly unacceptable and is a grim insight into Westminster’s attitude to the work of foodbanks and the families and individuals who rely on them at some of the most difficult times in their lives.

“Quite recently I visited the Eilean Siar Foodbank in Stornoway and they told me that in one week alone they gave out 17 food parcels across the islands to people in dire need.  Their work has to be praised and of course supported but it is shocking that we have this need amongst our community. The importance of the work of organisations like Eilean Siar Foodbank, who have links with the Trussell Trust, is widely recognised in our communities and must not be undermined in this way.

“The SNP has raised concerns on the issue in a letter to Iain Duncan Smith – he must as a matter of urgency come clean on whether or not he plans to shut down the Trussell Trust. The DWP has already been caught out making false statements about the work of the Trussell Trust to the Welfare Reform Committee – but to threaten to shut down a charity because it disagrees with the UK Government line is a new low.

“We live in a country brimming with resources and talent but we are now reducing the most vulnerable people in society to using food banks. As a result of Westminster cuts that hit the least well off the hardest, demand for foodbanks has increased by 400 per cent.”

“While the UK government continues down this road of making the poor poorer, and the anti-independence No campaign tries to tell the people of Scotland that this is as good as it gets, more than ever it is clear that only a Yes vote next September can make Scotland the fairer country we know it can be.”