The number of Scots using food banks soared to record levels last year, new figures have revealed.
The Trussell Trust, which runs a network of food banks across the country, said the 12 months to March was the busiest for food bank use in Scotland since it began to provide the service. During the period, more than 210,000 three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis in Scotland, with almost 70,000 of those going to children - a 23 per cent increase on the previous year.
The main reasons for people needing emergency food, the report said, are benefits consistently not covering the cost of living, and delays or changes to benefits being paid.
Laura Ferguson, Scotland operations manager for the Trussell Trust, which has more than 1,200 food bank centres across the UK, said: “What we are seeing year-upon-year is more and more people struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food. A 200 per cent increase in just five years is not right."
The report found that Universal Credit is not the only benefit payment people referred to food banks have experienced problems with, but said that issues with moving onto the new system are a key driver of increasing need. A total of 42 per cent of food bank referrals made due to a delay in benefits being paid in Scotland were linked to Universal Credit.
Ms Ferguson added: “Enough is enough. We know this situation can be fixed - that’s why we’re campaigning to create a future where no one needs a food bank. Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty. Universal Credit should be part of the solution but currently the five week wait is leaving many without enough money to cover the basics. As a priority, we’re urging the government to end the wait for Universal Credit to ease the pressure on thousands of households.
“Ultimately, it’s unacceptable that anyone should have to use a food bank in the first place. No charity can replace the dignity of having enough money to buy food. That’s why in the long-term, we’re urging the Government to ensure benefit payments reflect the true cost of living and work is secure, paying the real Living Wage, to help ensure we are all anchored from poverty.”