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Tory MSP urged to apologise following "disgraceful" comments on those in food poverty

This news post is over 1 year old

Rachael Hamilton said her phrasing was "poor" and she did not mean to cause offence.

A Scottish Conservative MSP has been told she must apologise for “disgraceful” remarks made about families across the country who use foodbanks. 

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton has come in for criticism after suggesting that families who are forced to turn to foodbanks are “less well-educated” when it comes to cooking and preparing meals.

Speaking during a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee on Wednesday, Ms Hamilton referred to the provisions given out by food banks. 

She said: “This is an area that, actually, could be opened up to replace those types of foods in terms of how we are supporting people who possibly are less well-educated in terms of cooking and getting access to that food.” 

Following the comments, SNP MSP Alasdair Allan made an intervention during the hearing to challenge Ms Hamilton. 

He said: “Given what we have heard today about the ingenuity that has been used and is used by many families who are struggling to pay for food, I wonder whether Ms Hamilton would maybe recognised the phrase that she used about families that are hungry posibly being ‘less educated in how to cook’.”

Ms Hamilton attempted to expand on her point but was stopped in the interest of time by the committee’s convenor, fellow Tory Finlay Carson. 

The committee was taking evidence from a number of charities and campaign groups on Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill, including Polly Jones, head of Scotland at the Trussell Trust and director of Nourish Scotland, Pete Ritchie. 

MSPs had earlier heard from speakers that Scotland’s current system for providing food is entirely fixable, and the proposals in the bill would go some way to achieving this. 

The SNP have now called for Ms Hamilton to apologise and not double down following the incident. 

Rachael Hamilton MSP (Credit: Scottish Parliament)

Mr Allan said: “Rachael Hamilton’s comments were utterly disgraceful and an insult to thousands of families across Scotland who do everything they can to put food on to the table every day.

“People relying on foodbanks often find innovative ways to make meals go further and it is completely inappropriate for a Tory MSP to suggest that families in poverty are ‘less well-educated’ in how to cook and prepare food

“Once again, the Tory mask has slipped, and they have shown themselves to be completely out of touch, and frankly indifferent to the very real suffering caused by Tory cuts like the £20 Universal Credit uplift and the Benefit Cap.  

“Ms Hamilton must apologise for her appallingly insulting remarks.”

John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), said: “It is vital that everyone understands that it is acute lack of money that drives people to food banks.

"That so many of our citizens just don’t have the money to buy the food they need just can’t be right.

"Only by ensuring that our labour market and social security systems work together to provide everyone with a secure and adequate income will we end the need for food banks.”

Ms Hamilton told Third Force News: "I did not mean to cause any offence. My phrasing was poor but in the context of the discussion, the point I was making was clear and supported by the representative of the NFUS. 

“My point was referencing the 21 responses to the consultation on the Good Food Nation Bill that stated education about food is key to realising the social, economic, environmental, health and well-being benefits that the legislation seeks to achieve."



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Calum Munro
over 1 year ago

The key challenge is how do we educate young folk to be competent cooks who are knowledgeable about proper diet and getting proper value for their spending as they become independent?

How to we work this backwards to help folk who are already in difficulties and missed out on decent nutrition education and cooking skills?

I am in my 60s and learnt nothing about food in school. I learnt to cook in Scouts. I didn't recognise it at the time but I grew up on a diet constrained by the low wages that afflicted my Father's working life.

I know of well educated professionals in the Health sector who do not know how to cook and have brought their children up on ready meals because they never saw their parents cook and their children do not now know how to cook! This is not a "class" issue it is society wide and has repercussions on on the future health and welfare of the country.

The cycle has to be broken.

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over 1 year ago

She's correct this cadre are definitely not as healthy or as good at meal preparation - or eating generally. This is easy to find in health data. It correlates, unfortunately, what we eat is 100% linked to our health. That's not the problem though. The problem is whether this is a knock on from lower income or lower education - or perhaps a mix. Devils advocates are required MSP's must speak their minds without apology. There is an important debate to be had here. Can we reform our welfare system to both provide and educated?

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Lok Yue
over 1 year ago

Well said James