THE NEED for food banks is a "stain on our national conscience" with reliance dramatically increasing in Scotland, a charity report has found.

Changes to the welfare system, low wages, insecure and zero-hours contracts and rising food and energy prices have all contributed to the increase in the numbers of meals handed out, the study claimed.

Last year, more than 20 million meals were given to people across the UK who could not afford to feed themselves, a 54 per cent increase on the previous 12 months, according to the 'Below the Breadline' report published by Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and The Trussell Trust.

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Figures from the Trussell Trust alone showed that 913,138 people in the UK were given three days' emergency food between April 2013 and March 2014 - the equivalent of over eight million meals. In Scotland the figure is 71,428, up from just over 14,000 the previous year.

Oxfam want to see more done to help vulnerable people and the charity pointed to figures which it said show that the richest 10 per cent in Scotland have 900 times more wealth than the poorest 10 per cent.

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: "Food banks provide invaluable support for families on the breadline but the fact they are needed in Scotland in the 21st century is a stain on our national conscience.

"Too many people need more help to deal with the consequences of stagnating wages, insecure work and rising food and fuel prices.

"The UK Government needs to do more to help ensure the poorest and most vulnerable people don't bear the brunt of turning the economy around."