LEADING writers have criticised rules that ban family and friends from sending books to prisoners.

The complaints about the policy in place in Scotland follows revelations that prisoners in England and Wales were under similar restrictions.

Author Irvine Welsh and poet Jackie Kay have attacked the policy, which means ­prisoners in Scottish jails cannot have reading material posted to them unless it has been purchased through a pre-approved supplier such as Amazon.

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Critics, however, say the measure is limiting the availability of books in prisons, as prisoners and their families may not have spare cash or access to a credit card to order online.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said it was to minimise the risk of contraband such as drugs and mobile phones "entering establishments via prisoner correspondence".

Kay said the restrictions in Scotland were shocking. She said: "Reading educates you and ­education can take you out of the darkness and into the light.

"It is vitally important that all of our prisoners have as wide a reading opportunity as possible and that the right to read is not hampered or tampered with in any way at all."

Welsh criticised the idea of "nanny bureaucrats" having power over reading.

"Who should decide what people read?" he said. "It should be up to the individual themselves."