The First Minister has been urged to use newly devolved welfare powers to launch a young carers allowance.

Alison Johnstone, the Scottish Greens children and young people spokeswoman, has written to Nicola Sturgeon asking her to back her party's policy.

The Greens first proposed the idea in their manifesto for May's Holyrood election.

In one of her first speeches after the election, Sturgeon said she would "consider the introduction of a young carers allowance" as it "has real merit".

The Scottish Parliament can now create new benefits following a package of further devolved powers.

Johnstone said: "It's important the Scottish Government continues to explore the possibilities of the new powers.

"Whilst these proposals for new benefits are very welcome, it is the benefit top-up powers that present one of the most exciting opportunities for Scotland to chart a different, fairer course in social security.

"For years, both the Scottish Government and the Scottish Greens have criticised the UK Government for cutting support for those most in need.

"Up until now, that's all that we've been able to do: criticise. But from today, we can do something about it.

In a letter to the First Minister, Johnstone said: "Young carers make an enormous contribution.

"Even just in monetary terms, the care provided is worth in excess of £300m.

"At the same time, however, only a few hundred young carers are eligible for carers allowance and several studies have found the majority of young carers experiencing some level of economic deprivation.

She added: "In one of your first parliamentary speeches this session, I was delighted to hear you say that the Scottish Government would consider this idea, and it is good to see that ministers and officials have been spending the months since consulting young carers and their representatives on how financial support for young carers might be delivered.

"Accordingly, I would be very interested to hear from the responsible minister about the progress of the policy now that the government has had time to consult and undertake preliminary work.

"I would welcome a chance to meet them in the coming weeks to discuss this and related issues."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said it is considering if the benefit could "bridge" a gap in funding for carers.

She said: "It is unfair that some young people who have the responsibility and pressure of caring for a loved one may experience difficulties.

"That is why we are now considering if a young carer's allowance could bridge that gap in support.

"This is in addition to our commitment to increase carer's allowance to the same level as jobseekers allowance which will mean carers are £600 a year better off."

The Scottish Government is currently building a social security agency to manage devolved benefits.