IT’S usually around this time of year that schools across Scotland start to promote their annual Christmas appeals. Some raise money for charitable organisations that support those most in need. Others – as is the case with my daughter’s school – target their support at their own school communities.

This year, my daughter’s school is seeking donations for a giving tree to ensure that all pupils within the school will receive a Christmas present. Those who can afford to donate can hand in gifts to the school office. Those who would benefit from the initiative have a designated contact within the school who will handle the logistics in a confidential and respectful way.

This is not the only way in which my daughter’s school supports low-income families. Every year, there is a winter coat collection. There’s a uniform bank too, so all children can have the dignity of a well-fitting uniform that’s in good condition.

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While it is heartening that schools and other organisations are mindful of the financial pressures many families are under, these small acts of kindness we see across Scotland are not good news stories. They fulfil a need that simply shouldn’t exist in one of the world’s richest countries.

It has become a necessary norm that charity plugs the gaps left by the Government and that in itself is a sign of the policy failure that has led us to this point.

Often, you’ll see politicians who have supported poverty-inducing measures, such as the two-child cap on benefits, celebrating the hard work of volunteers and charitable organisations in their constituencies. They do so without any apparent awareness that they have it within their gift to cut out the middleman and support policies that put money directly into the hands of those who most need it.

I was thinking of this at the weekend when I read the latest story about King Charles’s (below) estates. If you’ve not caught up with that, forgive me for bringing it to your attention and maybe making you as angry as I am about it.

The National:

An investigation by The Guardian found that the Duchy of Lancaster has been collecting money from people who have died leaving no will or next of kin.

This morbid snatch and grab – known as bona vacantia – is all perfectly legal and above board. Which is perhaps not surprising in a country that makes it really easy for the rich to get richer while making it supremely difficult for the poor to keep their heads above water.

Normally, if somebody dies in England and Wales without a will or known heirs, their assets go to the Treasury. But if they lived within the Duchy of Lancaster – which includes Lancashire and parts of Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Cumbria – the money is seized and stuffed into the already bloated royal purse.

The investigation by The Guardian uncovered various occasions where that money had been used to improve properties owned by the king’s estate – further boosting his private income.

After the backlash generated by the report, the estate announced it is transferring more than £100 million – including funds collected from dead people – into “ethical” investment funds. This is a move designed to quash criticism of the archaic practice but the King’s spokesperson didn’t go so far as to say they would stop using the money – and benefiting handsomely from it.

Are we supposed to feel grateful that the King is moving his money around into investments that are “ethical”? Should ordinary folk expect to see a tangible difference or benefit from changes to the King’s financial portfolio?

Usually, when royalists are asked why they support the monarchy, the answer is that it’s because they bring a lot of money to the economy, through tourism and the sale of garish tea towels.

Supporters of the royals talk a lot less about exactly how much they cost us. They don’t mention the assets and resources the royal family hoards for itself, perfectly legally.

Not only do we allow it to exploit outdated laws for its own private profit, we subsidise the lavish lifestyles lavish they would be perfectly able to sustain for themselves. In a country where food banks give out not only food but leaflets offering details of the nearest “warm bank” where clients can go to escape the homes they can’t afford to heat, the very concept of a royal family is grotesque.

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Loopholes are for the upper echelons of society. They are for the rich, the wealthy and the privileged. And they can exploit them without facing any consequence more severe than a PR disaster.

Meanwhile, those struggling to afford basic necessities are allowed no such wiggle room. They are hit with punitive sanctions and forced to comply with a benefits system that dehumanises them at every turn.

A royal family should be an optional extra. An add-on, only available to countries that have sorted out every social inequality first. Such a country does not yet exist.

The royals have proven, once again, that they are a vanity exercise that we don’t need and can’t afford.