SCOTS could be given shopping vouchers as an alternative to having to go to food banks, under new Scottish Government plans.

Ministers are consulting on proposals which aim to end the need for food banks in Scotland.

The consultation document states that referring people in need to such centres is often the “most practical way to support them to access food”, but it points out the emergency parcels they receive are “rarely able to meet dietary, social and cultural needs and preference”.

The Scottish Government now proposes to “pilot the use of shopping vouchers as an alternative option”.

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It comes amid fears the number of people struggling to feed themselves and their families could rise, with the UK Government having cut Universal Credit by £20 a week.

“A rising cost of living and the loss of income support through the cut to Universal Credit and loss of furlough are likely to further increase financial hardship,” the consultation paper warned.

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said: “We share the same vision as food bank operators – they are not a long-term solution to poverty.

“Our draft plan sets out what we will do within our powers – including introducing a shopping voucher pilot scheme – to make food banks the last port of call.”

She said that over the last year, the Scottish Government has spent £2.5 billion supporting low-income households, with almost £1bn targeted at helping children.

She added: “Despite our fixed budget and limited powers we are taking action to support those in poverty, including discussions around establishing a minimum income guarantee for Scotland.

“As part of the right to an adequate standard of living, people need to be able to access food that meets their dietary, social and cultural needs and this plan shows the way forward.”

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Sabine Goodwin, co-ordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, which represents more than 500 food banks across the UK, said: “As the cut to Universal Credit and cost of living increases exacerbate poverty in Scotland, the publication of the draft national plan to end the need for food banks couldn’t be more timely.

“With a cash first, collaborative approach to food insecurity as the cornerstone of this plan, a time when food banks will no longer be needed to plug the gaps left by financial hardship is within sight.”