Nicola Sturgeon has blamed Conservative austerity policies for the growth of food banks in Scotland.
The SNP leader warned a greater Tory majority at Westminster following next month’s General Election would lead to “an even greater burden of needless austerity”.
On a visit to the Highland Foodbank in Inverness, she said: “The growth of food banks is a damning indictment of just how damaging Tory austerity has been to communities across Scotland.
“The SNP have worked to protect household incomes by keeping council tax bills low, and by supporting families at every stage of their life - from the baby box and support for new parents, to free university education, to free medicine and free personal care.
“In contrast, the Tories have argued for years that the sick should pay for their medicine, that the young should be forced into debt to pay for tuition, and that the elderly should face costs for personal care.
“There can be no doubt that the Tories at Westminster would use a bigger majority at this election to make ordinary families bear an even greater burden of needless austerity.
“Now more than ever, it is vital to have strong SNP voices standing up for Scotland.
“Only then can we protect Scotland from the dangers of an unopposed Tory government at Westminster and continue to make Scotland the best country it can be.”
Conservative MSP Adam Tomkin said: “The most recent statistics which were published last month show that food bank usage has markedly decreased in several parts of Scotland, and increased in other parts of Scotland.
“For example, usage of Trussell Trust foodbanks is down 26% in Aberdeen, down 29% in North Lanarkshire, and down 39% in North Ayrshire, but up in other places. It’s difficult to interpret these figures, but the variation within them shows that any simplistic explanation that seeks to blame all usage on Conservative welfare reform policies can only be inaccurate and misleading.
“Conservative welfare reforms are designed to ensure that work will always pay, and as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently said ‘for those who can, work represents the best route out of poverty’.
“At the same time our tax policies have lifted 113,000 Scots out of paying income tax altogether since 2010/11, and the living wage has given a pay increase to 1.7 million people UK-wide.”