Nigel’s Notes - 6000th foodbank client

It’s difficult to find a milestone these days but I do recall that once upon a time that they were quite literally stones beside the road telling you how many miles the next settlement was in either direction

I suppose their message could be disappointing if you thought you had walked far enough already, but generally they were at least reassuring that you knew how far you’d gone.

I was disappointed last week to learn that Angus food bank had passed the milestone of providing food for its 6000th client, around 2500 each year. A quarter of these folk are children and two thirds are in the 25-64 age range. I hope I am not alone in finding this appalling in 2016 Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament has been debating the transfer of social security powers from Westminster to Holyrood this week. Whilst the transfer of powers is always welcome they do come with significant restrictions as most welfare payments continue to be set by the UK Government.

I have commented at length before about the value of redistributive economic policy – the demonstrable fact that we are all better off if the gap between the richest and the poorest is reduced. Sadly there is little prospect of the Tories understanding this as it flies in the face of their social assumptions.

If you have not yet read The Spirit Level: Why more equal societies always do better by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett then please do, if only to understand where the argument is coming from. It’s no longer about socialist dogma; it’s now founded in big economic data.

And here comes another referendum; rushed out so that no one needs to produce well-crafted detailed assessments of what the result might mean.

When it’s organised by Westminster there will be no cries that we don’t have enough information, no suggestion that one side or the other should be able to guarantee how anything will work out. No. We’re going to be treated to three months of Westminster politicians, and probably quite a number of has-beens, throwing out one-liners, and mostly of the negative fear inducing variety.

This is civil war among the Tories, but there will be a positive message from the SNP throughout. Meanwhile there will be Holyrood elections to establish who will be governing Scotland for the next five years.

I’ve no doubt that most of us will realise that these two are very different electoral issues, though of course they are both part of the democratic process which we are privileged to have, and will have significant consequences for our future wellbeing. Amidst the noise and fury of the Euro debate I hope we can keep our eye on the central issue of good government for Scotland.