This is Challenge Poverty Week, so it was very encouraging to see that Orkney is the latest local authority area in Scotland to launch a Worrying About Money? leaflet under the model promoted by the Independent Food Aid Network.
Based on learning from Scotland’s A Menu for Change project to tackle food insecurity in the country, these leaflets are promoting a cash-first approach to ending this issue, with Orkney’s version launched during an online event on Monday.
Household food insecurity, which is a result of poverty rather than a shortage of food, cannot be solved by the continued use of emergency food bank parcels. The day that the last food bank in Scotland closes will be a day of celebration in my book.
For that reason, I commend the work of the partners in this local project, NHS Orkney Public Health, the Independent Food Aid Network, Orkney Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Social Security Scotland, the Trussell Trust, and Orkney Food Insecurity Group. Together with the Money Counts training sessions that are planned, this project looks to be a valuable one in raising awareness about the services that can help folk facing financial crisis or money worries.
Of course, this is all taking place against a backdrop of a heartless cut to the £20 Universal Credit uplift, against which I spoke in Holyrood last week. Making the biggest overnight cut to social security in my lifetime and in the lifetimes of most other MSPs, when fuel and other living costs are rising and we are recovering from a pandemic, is as ridiculous as it is morally reprehensible.
With these rising energy prices in mind, and especially the hike in electricity prices for those in Orkney and other Highlands and Islands areas without mains gas, I look forward to learning more about efforts to support folk in fuel poverty when I visit Orkney next week.
I continue to press for solutions to the housing crisis across the Highlands and Islands, and I was pleased that Shona Robison, in answer to a question from me last week, confirmed that local authorities would continue to be encouraged to buy back properties lost to them through the right to buy. I hope this is something that Orkney Islands Council will actively pursue, having flagged up difficulties in housing recruited staff.
This will be my second visit to Orkney since May, and I will pick up on these and other issues from local constituents that have crossed my desk in the meantime.
I might also have to seek out some of the award-winning produce of Ian and Anthea Hume. I was pleased to be able to lodge a motion last week congratulating the family-run artisan food producers on receiving a three-star award from the Great Taste Awards for their organic Orkney hot smoked salmon. They are obviously consistent with their quality, this being the third award of this nature for Humes, so I look forward to sampling some of their tasty produce on home soil.
This is a regular column from Emma Roddick, SNP MSP. All MSPs who represent the Highlands and Islands have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their personal views.