MSP Brian Whittle has broken ranks and contradicted the official Tory party line by admitting that food bank use is because people are being made to wait too long for benefits .

UK Conservative Ministers have previously denied any link between food banks and benefit cuts.

However, Whittle hit out at "flaws" in the system that was leaving people without money for six weeks or more.

Under Department for Work and Pension (DWP) rules a six-week waiting period is enforced before claimants can collect Universal Credit – the monthly social security payment. Whittle, the South of Scotland MSP, said that wait and also appeals against the loss of payment contributed to the rise.

He said visits to food banks in his area convinced him parts of the UK Government's welfare approach was not working.

"Without question the current system has flaws and it would be crass to suggest otherwise," he said. "To me much of our current issues with the welfare system comes down to implementation of policy and not necessarily with the policy itself.

"When I was speaking to the local food bank they highlighted that just changing the welfare policy can have significant ramifications if that change is not accompanied with an appropriate implementation policy.

"That is something that will have to change.

"I would also suggest that much of the short-term usage of food banks comes from the six-week waiting time imposed for benefit payments, or the length of time it takes for an appeal to be heard following sanctions.

"There are not many of us who would manage for six weeks without any money."

However, the DWP, in response to Whittle, said it was providing appropriate support to those living on welfare benefits.

The DWP spokesman said: “Reasons for food bank use are complex so it’s misleading to link them to any one issue. The vast majority of benefits are processed on time and sanctions are only used in a very small percentage of cases.

"For those who need extra support we provide hardship payments, benefit advances and budgeting loans.”

In June 2015 Tory MP Priti Patel, then an employment minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, said she did not accept claims that abruptly stopping someone’s benefits could lead to food bank use.

She said: “We have looked at this issue extensively and we agree with this conclusion reached by the All-party Parliamentary Group into hunger that the reasons for food bank use are complex and overlapping."

The Trussell Trust, the largest provider of food banks, said it has provided more than 145,000 packages to Scots in crisis in 2016-17 – a nine per cent increase on the previous year.

Former Tory Work and Pensions Secretary and party leader Iain Duncan Smith has also denied claims that benefits changes were linked to a rise in use, accusing the trust of “scaremongering” over the issue.