Emergency food given out last year could have fed the whole of Dundee
A record number of Scots are relying on help from foodbanks, it has been revealed.
Last year, more than 145,000 packages were given out by the Trussell Trust charity – the most ever.
It is estimated that this helped to stave off hunger in almost 50,000 children and is enough to feed the entire population of Dundee.
Low incomes and benefit problems have been blamed for the rise, with represents a 9% jump from 2015.
The Trussell Trust published a report into the activity of its 52 Scottish foodbanks.
It found that low income was the single biggest reason for referral to a Scottish foodbank - affecting a quarter of those helped.
24% of those referred had suffered benefit delays, while 18% encountered difficulties with benefit changes.
However, while foodbank use is up, there has been a slowing down in the growth of actual foodbanks, which is partly explained by the charity, one of the UK’s major emergency food outlets, having already moved into areas where there were no foodnbanks in the past, such as the Shetland Islands.
UK-wide, areas where the Universal Credit system has been rolled out are reporting increased demand.
Ewan Gurr, the charity's Scotland network manager, said: Ewan Gurr: "Despite nine Scottish local authorities showing a decrease in foodbank use six months ago, it is clear that a cold Christmas, the rollout of Universal Credit and the ever-increasing pressure on the pockets of low-income individuals and families is yielding bitter outcomes.
"Worrying stories emanating from foodbanks highlight the reality that a record 12-month inflation rate of 2.3% and benefit delays attributed to the rollout of Universal Credit are leaving men, women and children up and down the country sitting at the dinner table with no food in front of them.
"With both council elections and a general election on the horizon, it is absolutely critical for confirmed as well as prospective candidates to put tackling hunger and food poverty front and centre of the policy agenda.
"It is crucial to amplify the voices of people in poverty in the process and ensure the delivery of a clear and coherent strategy on tackling hunger and food poverty that can be implemented both at local and national level."
A spokesman for the DWP defended the Universal Credit system and insisted reasons for foodbank use are “complex”.
He said: "Employment is the best route out of poverty, and there are now near record numbers of people in work in Scotland.
"Under Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.
"Universal Credit is designed to mirror the world of work and give people control over their own finances.
"The majority of Universal Credit claimants are confident in managing their money and we work closely with local authorities to support those who need extra help.
"Budgeting support, benefit advances, and direct rent payments to landlords are available to those who need them."