SCOTLAND should follow the lead of France and force supermarkets to donate surplus food rather than throw it away as waste, an SNP backbencher has said.

Stuart McMillan, who represents the West of Scotland, said it was "scandalous" that retail giants were dumping perfectly edible products at a time when increasing numbers are using foodbanks.

In a letter to cabinet secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Richard Lochhead, he also pointed out that reducing food wastage would help improve the environment.

The French Government has forced supermarkets to donate food to charities or for use as animal feed rather than throw it away, with the legislation passed unanimously by the country's national assembly. Heavy fines or even a jail sentence of up to two years can be imposed if rules are not followed.

Mr McMillan said: "I have watched the legislation recently passed in France with interest, and I believe introducing such a law in Scotland would be a massive step in helping cut down on this wastage, while also helping Scotland become a greener nation.

"It is important to add that not all supermarkets fall into this category, many are very active in donating unused food and should be congratulated for doing so. However, I think the time has come for those who are not to be forced to do so. I hope the Scottish Government take this idea forward and give it the serious consideration it deserves."

The Scottish Retail Consortium, however, described the idea of adopting the French proposal as a "distraction from the bigger targets of food waste reduction" and said many businesses give away food on a voluntary basis.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said it supported the UK-wide voluntary Courtauld Commitment in which grocery retailers and brands agree to reduce food and packaging waste.

She added: "The commitment recognises that the majority of food waste occurs during production and in the home, rather than at point of retail, and commits signatories to take action in the supply chain and support customers in reducing food waste."