NICOLA Sturgeon has said it is a "disgrace" that an increasing number of people across the United Kingdom are struggling to feed themselves and their families.

The First Minister, speaking on a visit to a food bank and advice hub in Kinross, said the use of such facilities were directly linked to welfare cuts made by the UK Government.

Her comments come as figures published by the Independent Food Aid Network indicates a total of 596,472 food parcels were distributed in Scotland between April 2018 and September 2019 – a 22% rise on the previous period.

Praising the work of the volunteer-led Broke not Broken project, Sturgeon said: "Broke not Broken have my unending thanks for their kindness.

"The charity is a shining example of the many compassionate organisations throughout Scotland that are helping those in our society who, through desperation and often as a result of UK welfare cuts, are forced to turn to charities to feed their families.

"It is a disgrace that increasing numbers of people across the country are struggling to feed themselves and their families.

"No-one should go hungry or have to rely on charitable food provision in a country as prosperous as Scotland."

The First Minister also said the Scottish Government would continue to challenge the "punitive welfare reforms" imposed by the UK Government.

"We invested over £1.4 billion in support for low-income households in 2018-19, including over £100 million mitigating the worst impacts of the welfare cuts," said the SNP leader.

"Our £3.5m Fair Food Fund is supporting communities to respond to food insecurity in a way that promotes dignity and helps to move away from charitable food aid as a primary response.

"We will continue to challenge the UK Government's punitive welfare reforms that take money out of the pockets, and food out of the mouths, of some of the most vulnerable in our society.

"That is why we are embedding a human-rights approach in the design and delivery of our new Scottish social security system."