SCOTLAND has set “a precedent for other governments around the UK to follow” with the publication of a plan on ending food bank use north of the Border, a leading charity has said.

The Trussell Trust, which announced in April that a record number of emergency food parcels had been handed out in the past year, praised the Scottish Government for laying out a “cash-first” approach to tackling food insecurity.

On Monday, the Edinburgh government set out “nine actions” that it hopes will drive down the record-high numbers, including establishing a new £1.8 million Cash-First Programme.

READ MORE: Food banks changing opening hours to help people with jobs, MSPs told

Other actions include making it easier for people to be referred to cash support rather than food banks, funding community food projects, and look to continue testing other models of support such as shopping cards.

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said that the Government is “taking all the action we can to support people within our limited powers and fixed budget”.

However, the Scottish Government report says that “the economic context remains fluid and we will likely need to do more”.

Polly Jones, the head of Scotland at the Trussell Trust, said the plan was a blueprint which other UK nations should follow.

Jones (below) said: “Food bank use in Scotland is at an all-time high, with hundreds of thousands of Scots needing to access charitable food support. This is the first plan to reduce the need for food banks from any government in the UK and sets a precedent for other governments around the UK to follow. We are pleased the Scottish Government have listened to food banks and published this long-awaited plan.”

The National: Charity leader Polly Jones who was sacked after planning to stand as a parliamentary candidate in 2019 has won her case. STY NUTT.. Pic Gordon Terris Herald & Times..14/10/22.

She added: “We welcome the commitment to fund cash-first partnerships that support local organisations to work together to reduce the need for food banks in their communities. Going forward, we need the Scottish Government to do what charities cannot and deliver bold long-term changes to increase people's incomes as well as the short-term provisions set out today.”

Other campaigners welcomed the plan, but warned that more would need to be done.

Sabine Goodwin, the coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, said: “The Scottish Government has powers to reduce food insecurity and adopt a truly cash-first, income-focused strategy to end the need for charitable food aid in Scotland.

“As the poverty crisis deepens, frontline teams across Scotland are eager to see a time when no one needs to turn to any form of charitable food aid provision to get by. We welcome this plan and the Scottish Government’s commitment to critical steps towards that cash-first future.”

Social Justice Secretary Somerville said: “Whilst none of us want food banks, we recognise the important role they play for people in need. This plan, the first of its kind by any UK Government, will support people who face food insecurity and will move us closer to our longer-term ambition of a country where there is no need for food banks.

“We want to ensure we reach people in need and by providing a cash-first approach, backed by advice and support, we will support people to strengthen their incomes and prevent future hardship and crisis, allowing them more choice and dignity.”

From April 2022 to March 2023, the Trussell Trust said it handed out 2,986,203 emergency food parcels across the UK, a 37% increase on the previous year.

In Scotland, 259,744 emergency food parcels were provided, the charity said. This was also a record high and an increase of 30% on the previous year.

You can find the Scottish Government's plan to tackle the issue here.