Penicuik councillor’s poverty crisis claims

Midlothian Council Debating chamber at Midlothian House, Buccleuch St in Dalkeith 19/2/18
Midlothian Council Debating chamber at Midlothian House, Buccleuch St in Dalkeith 19/2/18

Women are being left unable to breastfeed their babies because they cannot afford to eat properly as poverty in Scotland reaches crisis point, it has been claimed.

Penicuik councillor Debbi McCall said that despite working in welfare rights for years she had never seen things this bad.

She was speaking as the local authority backed a motion (11 votes in support and five abstentions ) thanking the United Nations for its recent report on poverty in the UK which found the UK Government was in “a state of denial” over the misery caused by austerity measures.

Cllr McCall (SNP), told colleagues: “I have never seen it as bad as this when we have situations when women cannot breastfeed because they are not having a high enough calorific intake or offering women menstrual products and actually they are at the point where they don’t need them because their periods have stopped because of the lack of nutritional intake that they are getting.”

She spoke out after fellow SNP councillor Colin Cassidy put the approved motion forward, describing the situation as “a major catastrophe the likes of which has never been seen in any of our lifetimes.”

He said: “The austerity measures were not created by people already struggling to survive, they were created by greedy people who wanted more and more of the cake.

“To misquote the words of Marie Antionette there will be no cake left to eat.”

However his motion was criticised by Councillor Janet Lay-Douglas, Conservative, who said: “Again we find ourselves in another council meeting with the SNP ranting about the London Government and Marie Antoinette.

“I am very happy to revisit history and consider what a mess the last SNP administration left this council in. Try putting your contributions into cross party working into trying to mitigate the effect a £6.7m funding gap will have on local residents.”

Councillor Stephen Curran, Labour, said that he believed the motion was relevant to Midlothian as he witnessed first hand the impact of Universal Credit on one person who, he said, had been left without a payment through no fault of his own.

Mr Curran said: “I recently assisted a constituent who literally had one tin of soup in the cupboard and nothing in the fridge, thankfully they managed to get access to a crisis grant.

“This story is absolutely true, sometimes it is dismissed as fake news or distorting the truth but it is absolutely true.

“The unfortunate reality is that Universal Credit is having a harsh impact on many people in our society and compounded by the complete lack of empathy from the UK government.

And Councillor McCall backed his claim saying “the example councillor Curran gives is by no means an isolated event.

“We have people who have nothing in their cupboards and that is just so wrong.”

She added: “Thankfully we have food banks out there and churches who are doing stuff. It is wonderful that the communities have got together but the fact we have to do it is tragic.”