Scotland is to have a robust new system of prison monitoring, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said as he confirmed the current visiting committees are to be scrapped.

The Scottish Government is proposing four part-time prison monitors will take on the work, assisted by local people who will be recruited as lay monitors.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons will oversee the monitoring under the new system, expected to be up and running by autumn 2014.

Mr MacAskill said: "This new approach will provide an integrated and robust system which will provide Scotland with a gold standard in prison monitoring."

Labour is opposed to the proposed new system, which needs to be approved by the Scottish Parliament.

Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald said the proposals were "an insult to all concerned". He said: "Volunteer members of prison visiting committees, including members of the SNP, will be outraged by plans to close them down, and that anger I suspect will be widely shared."

The new system was proposed after Professor Andrew Coyle of London University was appointed to consider the independent monitoring of prisons.

He found the existing prison visiting committees did not meet the standards required by a United Nations protocol, as budgetary matters and administrative arrangements are managed by the Scottish Prison Service, which runs the institutions they monitor.

The Justice Secretary said existing members of prison visiting committees would be able to apply to become lay monitors under the proposed new system.