The number of attempted suicides in Scottish prisons is already more than double last year's total, according to new figures.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests made by the Scottish Lib Dems and the Evening Express newspaper indicate in the first seven months of 2019, 77 attempted suicides were recorded.

The figure is significantly higher than the 31 attempted suicides that were recorded in the entirety of 2018.

The statistics also suggest there has been a rise in the number of self-harm incidents recorded at prisons across the country.

Over the first seven months of 2019, a total of 1,069 incidents were recorded according to the FOI requests, up from 762 recorded in 2018.

In 2017, there was a total of 532 self-harm incidents recorded at Scottish prisons.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said the figures indicate that Scotland's prisons are not safe places to be.

"The fact there have been twice as many attempted suicides in the first few months of 2019 as there was in the whole of last year is devastating news.

"These figures are a cry for help," he said.

"The SNP Government need to wake up to the state of emergency in our prisons.

"Individual prisons are accommodating up to 500 more people than they were designed for.

"People are packed in like sardines and overworked staff are being overwhelmed by a mental health crisis.

"Scotland's prisons are not safe places to be at the moment."

Mr McArthur added: "It's been over two years since the Scottish Government accepted Scottish Liberal Democrat proposals to expand the mental health workforce in prisons.

"They were supposed to share in the rollout of 800 extra staff but so far have received just 12.

"That's not even the equivalent of one per prison.

"Fatal accident inquiries are supposed to ensure that lessons are learned from these tragedies, but the Crown office are swamped and can't keep up.

"A broken system shouldn't get in the way of lessons that can save lives.

"We need a much larger, coordinated intervention to save lives.

"The Scottish Government needs to establish a new taskforce to address the self-harm epidemic that is occurring within their care.

"Staff, prisoners and the communities people return to have every right to demand better."

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has indicated that the number of self-harm incidents and attempted suicides recorded could be higher due to a change in the way in which such incidents are classified.

The service also outlined that some of the individual incidents recorded can be carried out by the same individual multiple times.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We recognise that people entering the criminal justice system often have complex needs.

"This is why in recent years the SPS has improved reporting procedures for prison staff and raised awareness about the risks of self-harm, ensuring that cases are properly recorded and appropriate care and support provided.

"A multi-expert National Suicide Prevention Management Group has been established by SPS which is currently overseeing the development of a self-harm policy.

"SPS takes the mental health of all those in its care very seriously, and is working closely with NHS staff responsible for mental healthcare provision across the prison estate.

"The Scottish Government's 10-year Mental Health Strategy will enable an increase in mental health support in our prisons. This strategy is supported by investment rising to £35 million by 2021-22."