THE number of food banks in the Highlands has doubled since March, with some now required in popular tourist destinations.

Councillors are linking the growth in the number of facilities to the delays in benefit payments due to the controversial reform of the welfare system.

A report that went before the authority's resources committee said that since March alone new food banks, part of the Trussell Trust's UK-wide network, had opened in Dingwall, Nairn, Alness and Invergordon, South Skye and Lochalsh and Tain. It said: "The new food banks are in addition to existing projects in Inverness, Aviemore, Fort William, Thurso and Kyle of Lochalsh."

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The report revealed "a huge backlog in face to face assessments has resulted in significant delays for people waiting to receive their Personal Independence Payment", which replaces the Disability Living Allowance.

Inverness Liberal ­Democrat councillor ­Alasdair Christie, who is also general manager of the Citizens Advice Bureau in the Highland capital, described such a delay as "scandalous" and said some people were dying before learning the outcome of their claim.

Margaret Davidson, ­Independent councillor for Aird and Loch Ness, said the growth of food banks was taking the country back decades.

The Department for Work and Pensions says the reforms are to make the benefit system fairer and more affordable. It argues that the changes will help reduce poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency as well as reduce levels of fraud and error.