Douglas Ross defends Tory benefits cuts during Glasgow soup kitchen visit

AS the elements from storm Dudley battered the streets of Glasgow, scores of people queued in the wet and cold in anticipation of a hot meal. 

Food hadn’t even been served on soup kitchen tables before an orderly line of around 35 formed underneath the Heilanman’s Umbrella.

It was an example of how desperate the poverty situation in Glasgow is and a very convenient evening for Douglas Ross’ visit – as our sister title the Glasgow Times reports.

The Scottish Tory leader was in town on Wednesday night having accepted an invitation to attend the Homeless Project Scotland provision – but only four months after claiming he had “no knowledge” of the invite.


On his arrival, chairman of the charity, Colin McInnes, warns Mr Ross to be braced of the chaos inside his Argyle Street unit before he makes his way inside. 

“Before you go in, you must know it is chaos inside here but I would like to you see the chaos”, Mr Ross is told. 

The politician is led around the building and is briefed on the services that the charity provides to those living below the breadline, all while the queue outside grows bigger and bigger. 

The charity informs Mr Ross of the homeless situation in Glasgow and how demand is only increasing day by day. 

Among the hundreds of destitute to receive help from the soup kitchen every week, a majority are struggling to make ends meet due to Tory austerity measures – such as the £20 weekly cut to Universal Credit and a hike in inflation unmatched to income rates. 


When the Glasgow Times asks Mr Ross why he thinks there is a large queue outside, he says: “It’s a range of issues – harrowing cases from people of all different backgrounds”.

He goes as far to defend the benefit cuts, arguing that the £20 weekly uplift was only in place to alleviate financial stresses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. 

He said: “That uplift was always temporary but it was due to be only for six months and at the end of the six months, I challenged the chancellor and the Prime Minister to keep the uplift for another six months. 

“We got it for a year and it made a big difference to people but it would have been £6 billion to continue that indefinitely.

“I am not trying to downplay the impact that it has but it was always a temporary uplift and we got it for double the amount of time that had been anticipated. It was put in place because of the pandemic and we are now coming out of it.”


While upholding his superiors’ decisions to leave families worse off by £80 every month, he ironically admits that the need for emergency food aid is visible in Scotland. 

He said: “It isn’t just Glasgow. Two folk at the front of the queue have come from Paisley. So, there is a need for this service all over Scotland and up and down the country. 

“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need this but there are still people on the streets and vulnerable people who need the support”.


In September, the Glasgow Times told a harrowing account of how two hungry schoolchildren attended Colin’s soup kitchen for the first time. Hardship is leaving families with no choice but to turn to charities for help. 

When asked about child poverty and Universal Credit recipients losing £570 of their benefits in real-terms as costs surge, Mr Ross turns to the work carried out by those on the “frontline” in the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). 

He said: “One thing I would say about Universal Credit is that it didn’t get much coverage during the pandemic but it has the opportunity of being an absolute banana skin for the government because of the huge increase of people applying for it. 

“I don’t think those at the frontline got the recognition but the fact they were able to turn these new claims around and the fact that the welfare system did not buckle under that huge pressure during the pandemic and since then is something we are grateful for, for those people in job centres and DWP offices down the country. 

“If it had gone wrong, it would have hit the headlines, understandably.”


The cost of a living crisis will only be magnified in the coming months when inflation rises to 7% in April during the same time National Insurance and council tax is increased.

Explaining why he supports a hike on National Insurance, Mr Ross said: “Every government of all political persuasions, certainly at a UK level, have tried to grapple with the issue of properly funding the NHS and in particular, social care and no government has ever done it. 

“It is a difficult decision, but by doing so, we can dedicate billions of pounds of support to improve the NHS after the pandemic. 

“We can try to provide a system that offers greater social care for those who need it in later life. These decisions are not easy and it is not simple to say – yes we need to do that, but not provide the funding and that is why I supported that rise.”

The evening is rounded off with Mr Ross speaking to the soup kitchen attendees before he poses for pictures with the service users, smiling.


Colin said: “I hope Douglas’ visit raises awareness of our services and that he can take our case to parliament to help us find a bigger facility so as we can feed people in dignity. 

“I also hope that it influences his votes in Westminster that affect poverty and social deprivation within our communities.

“I think it should send a message to Nicola Sturgeon that she should be booking a date in the diary to come and visit our facility, also. We look forward to hearing from her office soon.”

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