Foodbank volunteer rubbished by Tory MP: “Visit us and see if you still take our view with a pinch of salt”

04/02/2015
CommonWeal

Mundell told: “As a representative of the people it really isn’t good enough.”

SCOTLAND’S only Tory MP has been challenged to visit a foodbank after telling a Scottish parliamentary committee that the views of one of the organisation’s volunteers should be taken “with a pinch of salt” because he’s a Yes campaigner.

The Herald reported that David Mundell, MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, when asked about evidence to the welfare reform committee from Mark Frankland, a foodbank, drugs and veterans volunteer who runs First Base Agency in Dumfries, said that Frankland was a “very prominent Yes campaigner” and therefore his words should be taken “with a pinch of salt”.

Frankland told CommonSpace that he “was not impressed” by Mundell’s comments, adding that it was “a very silly thing to say”.

“Since 2010-14, we’ve served 20,000 food parcels,” he said. “Every one of those people we serve have a story to tell. And we believe part of our job is to pass the stories of those people on to politicians. For David Mundell to rubbish that evidence, just because I’m an independence supporter, is quite insulting, to the charity more than to me personally.

“As a representative of the people it really isn’t good enough,” Frankland added.

Frankland had told the welfare reform committee that people in Mundell’s constituency had their benefits cut because they had no access to the internet. Frankland cited Upper Nithsdale, claiming 300 benefit claimants in that area had only 15 public computers to use between them.

This evidence was put to Mundell, at which point he attempted to discredit Frankland’s evidence. Mundell’s remark was greeted by shouts of “shame” from aghast SNP MSPs.

Mundell’s remark was greeted by shouts of “shame” from aghast SNP MSPs.

“Each person has to leave an online footprint of their daily job applications under the new welfare changes,” Frankland explained to CommonSpace. “What I was pointing out was that if you have people, the majority of whom do not have their own computer or broadband, 15 public computers between 300 people every day clearly is not sufficient.”

Joan McAlpine MSP, whose seat is in a nearby area to Mundell’s, responded by saying: “I’m surprised you made that comment about Mr Frankland because he has been working in a voluntary capacity distributing food parcels for a number of years and helping veterans, so whatever his political views may be I’m sure you would pay credit to his charity work.”

Mr Mundell then said that whilst he believes Frankland “has done a lot of very good work”, he was “a very, very prominent Yes campaigner” and therefore “I don’t think we could necessarily take everything he says as totally objective”.

McAlpine said “she would take issue with that”, adding: “Many people who work in foodbanks come from all sorts of different backgrounds and the people who have contributed evidence to this committee weren’t all Yes campaigners or even Yes voters, but they are absolutely adamant that there is a link between foodbanks and sanctions.”

Frankland said that while McAlpine had visited their foodbank recently and helped serve food and speak to those using the foodbank, Mundell had not visited for eight years.

“Joan McAlpine has been here and seen it for herelf, she knows the link between welfare cuts and foodbanks first-hand,” Frankland said. “I would invite Mundell to do the same, to come and visit us and at the end of the day see if he still takes our view ‘with a pinch of salt’.”

Mundell denied any link between UK government welfare reform and rising use of foodbanks at the welfare reform committee.

Andy Simpson, a local resident who knows and has campaigned with Frankland, said on Facebook: “What an absolute cretin Mundell is. Mark Frankland does fantastic work with the First Base Agency for ex veterans and people who are desperately in need as a result of austerity politicians like Mundell and his party, Mark’s opinion should be valued not swept aside with a ‘let them eat cake’ attitude from the likes of Mundell. Let’s get him voted out in May, it’s absolutely essential.”