Ahead of today's Holyrood debate on welfare and social security in Scotland, Jean Urquhart MSP has called for the creation of a new Scottish Economic Justice Fund (EJF).

The EJF would provide people hit by the UK Government's punitive welfare sanctions regime with an immediate, unconditional source of financial support.

In 2014-15, the Trussell Trust - the largest single organisation operating food banks in Scotland - received nearly 120,000 referrals for emergency food aid, of which 36,000 were for children. Many of these referrals concerned individuals who had had their benefits payments sanctioned by the UK Department of Work and Pensions.

The Scottish EJF would be funded by the revenues raised from a higher top rate of income tax Scotland.

Currently, the Scottish Government spends around £100m per year mitigating the cuts to welfare imposed by Westminster, including off-setting the impact of the Bedroom Tax via Discretionary Housing Payments.

In line with proposals set out by RISE - Scotland's Left Alliance, this sum would increase to £250m per year.

The EJF would be used as an administrative mechanism and would focus funding on organisations already providing essential advice, advocacy, and support to claimants navigating the UK welfare system, as well as on expanding direct cash grants to those most in need.

Jean Urquhart MSP, RISE's top candidate on the Highlands and Island regional list, said:

“I am committed to campaigning for a world class social security system in Scotland.

"The brutal Tory attack on our living standards and welfare system must be opposed root and branch.

"That is why the campaign for Independence remains so important.

"And with the new powers over parts of social security, I also advocate the setting up of a New Economic Justice fund, financed by the very richest in our society as a way of ending the scourge of poverty that scars Scotland today.”