THERE IS a view of foodbanks, espoused by many on the right, that they exaggerate the degree to which poverty exists in the UK. Fodbanks began to proliferate under a Labour administration, they will say, when government spending was actually ballooning. And isn’t it also the case that if you provide a service giving away free food people will use it? “By jove, we’ve even seen some people getting out of taxis to get to these places.”

Conservatives not only resent the existence of foodbanks they are embarrassed by them. Any concept which has at its heart a non-profit-making motive and involves giving stuff away will never sit comfortably with a party which measures eople and institutions by how much money they can make. They are embarrassed because foodbanks are a rebuke to the infallibility of the free market and to the survival of the fittest credo which drives Conservative ideology.

Earlier this week the TrussellTrust, which administers more than 400 foodbanks all over the UK, released figures which showed that at 133,000 there was a 13% year-on-year increase in referrals to Scottish foodbanks. The numbers also showed that while the number of UK referrals exceeded one million there remained a disproportionate use of foodbanks in Scotland.

There are 51 foodbanks in Scotland over a wide geographical spread of locations; not many of us live far from one. I’d recommend visiting one of them at least once for, no matter how economically successful this country becomes, they are here to stay. The levers of our economy are pulled in such a way that a significant number of our fellow citizens will always be denied its benefits. And no matter how much the parties of the left bleat about this none has ever shown a desire properly and radically to alter the elaborate system of inequality upon which our political system is built.

This is a system where power, influence and wealth are manipulated by a disproportionate few to suit the few. The pathway to becoming part of it is a narrow one and favours mainly those who have had an expensive private education and a degree at Oxford or Cambridge. As the Panama Papers revealed for many years they have operated an exclusion zone for the most affluent people and businesses in this country which protects them from paying taxes in the jurisdiction that helped them and their families to become rich. At the same time they have turned the UK into a one-stop service shop for the world’s money-launderers.

In Scotland we like to congratulate ourselves for having created a more enlightened and liberal society, but we haven’t really. The paucity of the government’s proposed land reforms will not affect the landholdings of the 500 or so people who own more than half of our country. And while the appointment of Lady Dorrian as the first female Lord Justice Clerk was a step in the right direction an even bigger one would have been to appoint someone from a state school background. This though, would have been difficult as less than a handful of our top judges in fair and equal Scotland attended a state secondary.

In Glasgow north-east foodbank in the city’s historic Calton district on Wednesday afternoon it was difficult not to be affected by the stories of what had brought people here. All had been sanctioned by the Department of Work and Pensions and often for transgressions that they hadn’t known existed or for which there was simply no warning. The DWP benefits regime is now designed to make it as difficult as possible for people who have been receiving payments to receive them in the future. A government of men whose families have done business in Panama and who routinely rent out their second mansions while they are “serving the nation” have created a culture which presumes guilt on the part of benefit claimants.

One of the men I spoke to last Wednesday was Alex, a spry and eloquent character in his 50s who had been a travelling Gaelic musician throughout Europe. When that had come to an end he found that the benefits he was entitled to were delayed by several weeks owing to confusion over his ID stemming from the Gaelic form of his name. “The most difficult thing to deal with when you encounter the DWP is how they try to strip away every last shred of dignity and humanity before they grant you any money. No part of your personal life is left unturned as they seek reasons not to give you basic subsistence money or to delay it.”

Many of those who have recently been using foodbanks in Scotland have worked their entire adult lives but a change in a person’s circumstances or a traumatic event can suddenly leave someone feeling that their life is spinning away from their control. Sudden unemployment or marital breakdown, especially where children are involved, can lead to depression. In-work poverty, where the wages are simply not sufficient to feed, clothe and heat a family is another major contributor to the steep increase in those of us being referred to foodbanks. The concept of savings is an alien one in vast swathes of Scotland.

In the space of a few years the state’s attitude to unemployment became colder and more sinister. “It was as if it had decided to turn on those who it previously wanted to help,” said Ewan Gurr, Scottish manager of the Trussell Trust. “Yet just a few years ago we had the job-seeker’s allowance and a seamless process where someone was there to try and coach you into work. Now it can be a shaming experience.”

One of the great myths of Britain’s benefits system and one which is irresponsibly propagated by the right is that it encourages the something-for-nothing culture. We’ll leave aside the irony of hearing this from a party which is built on unearned privilege and entitlement by birth. The benefits available to those who may require them have been bought and paid for by previous generations and by many of us currently who want our taxes and national insurance to help someone else. These are not handouts they are repayments.

In Parkhead foodbank a healing of sorts is also taking place. People who simply have no food for a few days will delay visiting a foodbank until they reach a point where their health is being affected. Their dignity and mental wellbeing took a battering from the DWP a long time ago. At Parkhead no one is judging and everyone knows the reasons why a soul has made that first journey to them. Here is where a person’s dignity and sense of humanity can be rebuilt with a quiet chat over a cup of tea and an empire biscuit.