THE number of emergency food parcels going to struggling households across the UK has reached an all-time high, according to a leading food bank charity.

The figures, published by the Trussell Trust, found that a record total of 2,986,203 parcels were given to people in the UK in the past year, with over a million going to children alone.

A record 259,744 emergency food parcels were also provided to struggling Scots according to the charity.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon takes jab at media presence outside her home

The SNP’s social justice spokesperson David Linden said the figures laid bare the impact of "Tory rule" over Scotland and the damage being done to Scottish Government efforts to eradicate poverty.

The Trussell Trust, which supports a network of over 1200 food banks in the UK, said this was a 30% increase in Scotland compared to the same period last year.

Alarmingly, they added, the number of parcels provided is 50% higher than the amount distributed by food banks in the Trussell Trust network in Scotland five years ago.

The annual statistics also indicate that an increasing number of people are struggling to afford the essentials, with more than 62,000 people in Scotland using one of the 138 Trussell Trust food bank centres for the first time - this is more people than can fit into Hampden Park.

Shona Singer, a project manager at a food bank in Aberdeenshire, said: “These cases are no longer rare or isolated, and there are far too many who do not have enough to cover the essentials.

“We are seeing more and more people forced into debt to heat their homes and feed their families, and that’s why Universal Credit must cover the essentials at the bare minimum – to help us end the need for food banks in Scotland.”

Speaking about the rising need for emergency food, Polly Jones, head of Scotland at the Trussell Trust, said: “These new statistics are extremely concerning and show that an increasing number of people are being left with no option but to turn to charitable, volunteer-run organisations to get by and this is not right.

She also suggested that the extension of eligibility for the Scottish Child Payment from aged 6 to age 16 and the £5 uplift to £25 a week, that was introduced in November, has made an impact.

She added, however, that further and immediate action needed to be taken by the Scottish Government.

READ MORE: Key points as Nicola Sturgeon faces media on return to Holyrood

Linden doubled down in condemning the Tory Government. He said: “The Tories’ cost of living crisis, compounded by their bad Brexit supported by their chums in the Labour Party, has driven up prices and forced a record amount of people to rely on food banks.

“These figures ought to shame even the most hardline Conservatives into immediate action - demonstrating that Tory austerity and economic policy has completely failed.

“They sum up the legacy of this shameful Tory government who continue to cause untold harm to ordinary people in Scotland who didn’t elect them.

“In Scotland we’ve taken steps to eradicate poverty and mitigate the worst of Tory rule, but here we are being made to watch powerless yet again as that work is undone by Westminster and as ordinary Scots are made to pay the heaviest price.

“While we introduced groundbreaking new benefits like the Scottish Child Payment the Tories were busy slashing Universal Credit and hiking taxes on the lowest earners.

“People in Scotland need an escape from the austerity and cost-of-living crisis created and imposed upon them by Westminster - that will only come with the full powers of independence.