Public in Scotland: need for food banks ‘fundamentally wrong’

New poll shows huge level of concern ahead of Poverty Alliance conference.

A new poll reveals a huge majority of people in Scotland believe the need for food banks is a sign that something is ‘fundamentally wrong’ in our society. 

The research, which was commissioned by Oxfam Scotland, also indicates strong support for action to reduce the need for food banks – and wider food insecurity – in Scotland. [1]

The polling will be highlighted at a national conference – ‘Food Poverty & Social Justice: What Next For Scotland?‘ – hosted by The Poverty Alliance in Glasgow today (Thursday 10 December). 

The event at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall will hear from people responding directly to food insecurity in Scotland. The overall aim is to identify how Scotland can develop its response, based on the principles of rights and social justice. [2]

The new research found that 82% of people in Scotland believe there is something fundamentally wrong in our society if people have to use food banks. The figure across the rest of Great Britain was 75%. 

The polling also reveals: 

  • Higher recognition of the scale of the problem in Scotland (44%) than across the rest of Great Britain (34%), with respondents more likely to say there are ‘many’ or ‘very many’ people in the UK who find it difficult to afford enough to eat. 
  • When asked how many people in the UK found it difficult to get enough to eat, none of the respondents polled in Scotland answered ‘nobody’
  • 82% of people polled in Scotland believe people should not need to use food banks – 10% higher than the figure for the rest of Great Britain (72%). 

Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “The people of Scotland are right – the fact that so many people in our rich country are left with no option but to turn to a food bank shows something has gone seriously wrong. 

“Food banks are a humanitarian response, but they should not have to exist – everyone should have sufficient income to afford enough food, and to pay for other essentials. There is no shortage of food in Scotland – this is about poverty. 

“Not all power to tackle this problem rests at the Scottish Parliament but ahead of May’s Scottish election we want every party to outline detailed plans for how they will use devolved powers to help reduce food insecurity in Scotland year-on-year. 

“This must be underpinned by improved monitoring of food bank use and wider food insecurity – it’s crucial we know and understand the full scale of this problem.”

There is no systematic measurement of food bank use in Scotland, or across the rest of the UK. However, data from the Trussell Trust – Scotland’s largest food bank provider – shows food bank use in Scotland has increased to record levels, with more than 60,000 referrals over a six-month period. [3]

Research has suggested that gaps in the social security safety net – including delays, errors and sanctions – are the key reason why people turn to food banks. [4]

Nearly three quarters of people polled in Scotland (73%) also said it was either “important” or “extremely important” for the UK Government to take action in the next 12 months to help people using food banks; slightly higher than support for action across the rest of Great Britain (70%). 

Peter Kelly of The Poverty Alliance said: “The growth of food banks in recent years is the surest sign that we need to do more to tackle poverty in Scotland.

“In the short-term we need to ensure people who need food can access it, but we also need to find long term solutions to food poverty. Our politicians need to listen to the demand for higher incomes and more, secure employment.”

As part of the research, people were also asked what actions would best help us move towards a Scotland where no-one is forced to seek emergency food support. The top three answers were: 

  • increasing the number of jobs in local communities
  • increasing wages for those with the lowest incomes 
  • making jobs more secure

Notes for editors
For more information or to arrange an interview call David Eyre on 07960 451631.

[1] The research was commissioned by Oxfam to better understand public opinions around food poverty in Great Britain, with a specific focus on understanding attitudes to food banks and their potential institutionalisation. In-depth interviews were carried out in Glasgow, Newcastle, London, Cardiff and Reading. These interviews were followed by a survey of 1,890 people across Great Britain. This included extra sampling to achieve 533 responses in Scotland and 477 in Wales. The fieldwork was conducted by Research Now in Aug/Sep 2015 and commissioned by Oxfam.

[2] The Poverty Alliance is holding its conference ‘Food Poverty & Social Justice: What Next For Scotland?’ on Thursday 10 December at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall. Representatives of the media are welcome to attend. For more information contact Mary Anne MacLeod on The conference is the culmination of work by the Poverty Alliance which has brought together those involved in emergency food aid provision at a local level to discuss wider strategies to address the drivers of food poverty in Scotland. This
conference will be a participatory event that will allow all those concerned with food poverty in Scotland to contribute their ideas on how we can best we can address it. The conference will include workshops on key issues such as food poverty and social security, the links to health, the role of Local Authorities, and community responses to food poverty. Speakers will include: Martin Johnstone, Chair of the Scottish Government’s Working Group on Food Poverty; Dr. Rachel Loopstra, University of Oxford; Mary Anne MacLeod, Research Officer at the Poverty Alliance; and Greig Sandilands,
Manager at North Lanarkshire Community Food Initiative.

[3] Trussell Trust Scots food bank referrals top 60,000 – BBC News:

[4] Research jointly conducted by Oxfam, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), the Church of England and The Trussell Trust – Emergency Use Only: Understanding and reducing the use of food banks in the UK – released in November 2014. In September 2015, Child Poverty Action Group Scotland released the follow up paper, Hard Choices: Reducing the need for food banks in Scotland, in
association with the Trussell Trust and Oxfam Scotland. The report made a series of recommendations for Scottish policy makers, based on the Emergency Use Only findings and CPAG’s wider research – including the CPAG Early Warning System.

About The Poverty Alliance
The Poverty Alliance is a network of individuals and organisations across Scotland working together to combat poverty. Our vision is of a sustainable Scotland based on social and economic justice, with dignity for all, where poverty and inequalities are not tolerated and are challenged. Our aim is to combat poverty by working with others to empower individuals and communities to affect change in the distribution of power and resources.

About Oxfam

Oxfam is a global movement of millions of people who share the belief that, in a world rich in resources, poverty isn’t inevitable. In just 15 years, extreme poverty has been halved. 15 more years and we can end it for good. To spread that change and make it last, political solutions are also needed to tackle the root causes of poverty and create societies where empowered individuals can thrive. 

About Research Now Group, Inc.
Research Now Group, Inc., headquartered in Plano, Texas, is the global leader in digital data collection to power analytics and insights. It enables data-driven decision making for clients who listen to and interact with the world’s consumers and business professionals through Research Now’s online panels, as well as mobile, digital and social media technologies. The company operates in over 35 countries, from 23 offices around the globe, and is recognized as the market research industry’s leader in quality, scale and customer satisfaction.