A near empty food cupboard. Photo: Oxfam.

Thousands of people across Scotland are being pushed further into poverty by cruel and draconian cuts to social security benefits, according to a new report published by the Scottish Government.

The annual Welfare Reform report warns that cuts imposed by the UK Government have seen spending on social security in Scotland cut by £3.7 billion since 2010.

According to the report, the controversial benefit freeze alone has led to reductions in spending of around £190 million in the current year 2018/2019, and is expected to rise to around £370 million by 2020/21.

The report has also found that Universal Credit claimants are over six times as likely to be sanctioned as claimants of any other legacy benefit, and young men are the most likely to be sanctioned.

Commenting on the findings, Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “These figures in this comprehensive report lay bare the devastating impact of the UK Government’s welfare cuts for people, families and communities across Scotland.

“As ever it is the poorest and most vulnerable in our society who are suffering the most, those out of work and those in low paid employment finding their benefits effectively being cut year after year.”

She continued: “The Scottish Government is doing what we can to protect people on lower incomes by, this year alone, investing over £125 million on mitigation measures – £20 million more than last year – and an additional £350 million for Council Tax Reduction.

“Over the coming years, we will use our new social security powers to provide increased financial support for people on low incomes, including the Best Start Grant, the Job Grant and Carers Allowance Supplement.

“We will also continue to promote the living wage, invest in housing and tackle child poverty as we continue to provide support to Scotland’s low income families and communities.”

A UK Government spokesperson defended the cuts: “Since 2010 over 3.3 million more people are in work across the UK, and the proportion of people in Scotland living in absolute poverty is at a record low, including for children.

“We continue to spend around £90 billion a year supporting people who need it, including those who are out of work or on a low income, and with our welfare reforms people are moving into employment faster and staying there longer than under the old system.

“The best way to help people improve their lives is to support them into work and Universal Credit gives people the flexibility to increase their working hours while keeping more of their money.

“The Scottish Government now has significant welfare powers, including to top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits altogether.”