This article first appeared in The Daily Record, 7th July 2023.
The SNP has demanded an apology from a Tory minister who claimed that veterans choose to use foodbanks.
The party's defence spokesperson Dave Doogan has written to Tory veterans minister Johnny Mercer demanding he says sorry for his "crass and uninformed" comments.
Mercer said earlier this week it is “not correct” people are forced to use foodbanks and suggested some members of the armed forces are using them because of "personal decisions around how people are budgeting every month".
Doogan said the comments highlighted “Tory ignorance” and accused the Government of neglecting the UK’s forces personnel.
He pointed to statistics which showed the UK is one of the lowest spenders in NATO on armed forces personnel, with satisfaction at pay levels within the forces at its lowest recorded level of 23 per cent.
According to the latest data from the House of Commons Library, the UK spent just 31 per cent of its defence expenditure on personnel-related costs in 2022.
This was the third lowest proportion spent on personnel out of 29 NATO member countries. In 2019, the UK spent 35 per cent, representing a drop of 4 per cent in three years. And recent figures from the 2023 Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey showed satisfaction with service life has fallen eight points to 41 per cent since 2021.
Doogan said the figures painted a “stark picture of the reality of service life” and “one the Tories would be wise not to ignore”.
He said: “These comments highlight Tory ignorance towards the reality of service life, where our military personnel have been forced to suffer plummeting living standards under this UK government.
“No one chooses to go hungry or be forced into using a foodbank. Comments like this are disgraceful, especially coming from the UK’s Veterans minister, and must be followed up with a sincere apology.
“Even before the Tory-made cost of living crisis, our forces personnel were made to endure incredibly poor levels of investment compared to our NATO allies and colleagues.
“The statistics showing record-low levels of satisfaction paint a stark picture of the reality of service life, and one the Tories would be wise not to ignore as a party that claims to support our troops and the brave men and women making huge sacrifices in service to our society.
“Westminster’s failure to ensure even our armed forces are equipped to deal with the worst of their economic chaos is symptomatic of the Tories’ carelessness to those ordinary people who keep the country running.
"It's clear that only with the full powers of independence can we ensure our forces, and indeed all public service personnel, are paid what they are rightly due.”
Mercer had not responded to the letter by Friday morning.