ANOTHER 100,000 children in Scotland will be plunged into extreme poverty as a result of the Tories’ £12 billion “absolutely outrageous” welfare cuts, Alex Neil has warned.

The Social Justice Minister insisted David Cameron’s plans to hammer the most vulnerable in society will be a horror story for Scotland and create the worst child poverty crisis in history.

Neil spoke to The National about his grave concerns as the Tories plough ahead with their ruthless austerity agenda, targeting children, poor and disabled people with a further slash on welfare spending.

During the last round of swathing Tory/LibDem coalition cuts on tax credits, disability and child benefit, coupled with severe sanctions, the number of children expected to be living in poverty in Scotland was set to rise to a shocking 300,000 by 2020.

However, it is predicted that by the time Cameron’s new Government is finished stripping £6bn out of the Scottish economy, that figure will likely have soared by another 100,000 children suffering in poverty-stricken families.

Neil insisted he and his colleagues at Holyrood and the SNP’s Westminster army of MPs will do everything in their power to stop Cameron targeting Scotland’s poorest and most vulnerable.

He said: “If the Tories go ahead with these cuts in a few years time there will be another 100,000 children living in poverty in Scotland so these cuts will be absolutely devastating, mainly for children and for disabled people. We estimate that it will take £6bn out of the Scottish economy which again will mean lost jobs as well as the people affected by the cuts.

“There will be a lot of people affected indirectly because there will be a lot less money swimming round in the Scottish economy.”

John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland also said the country was facing a “child poverty crisis” as a result of the Tories’ welfare cuts and called for a rethink on their latest shocking plans.

Neil is now demanding an urgent meeting with the joint working party on the transfer of welfare powers to Scotland and the UK Government to tackle the controversial cuts.

He said: “We are seeking an early meeting with the joint working party on the transfer of the welfare powers with the UK Government to progress the transfer because I think we will obviously administer welfare much more humanely than the UK Tory government would.

“We are in dispute with them over the welfare cuts, for example, over the proposed 20 per cent cut in the budget for the personal independence payment which replaces the disability living allowance.

“Now, we are arguing that these cuts should not take place because those people need that money and to cut the income for disabled people is absolutely immoral and unacceptable.

“Our MPs will be doing their best to fight these cuts as well because, while we accept that you need to obviously deal very robustly with people who cheat the system, the vast bulk of folk who claim benefits are just innocent people who have fallen on bad times and need the help of the state to see them through.

“Clearly, what the Tories are proposing to do is absolutely outrageous, targeting the most vulnerable in our communities while they give tax cuts to the rich.”

He said the Tories had their priorities all wrong by concentrating all their efforts on catching benefit cheats instead of focusing on the big money tax fraudsters.

Neil added: “It is estimated that benefit fraud costs the Exchequer between one and one-and-a-half billion pounds a year whereas tax evasion and avoidance costs the Treasury anything up to £70 billion pound a year.

“I have been told that the number of staff chasing benefit cheats is something like five times the number of staff chasing tax cheats, in other words, they are not going after the big money tax cheats, they are going after benefit cheats even though they cost the country a lot less than the defrauding of the tax system.

“You wonder why are their priorities so wrong and lopsided.”

He said the Tories were obsessed with cutting the welfare system and benefit cheats because the poor and vulnerable were easy targets.

Neil added: “The problem is the Tories are absolutely obsessed with benefit cheats. We would be the first to say that if somebody has been proved to have cheated the system should be dealt with severely because it brings the whole system into disrepute.

“But the fact of life is the cost of benefit fraud is considerably less than the cost of tax fraud, evasion and avoidance. The other big thing in the welfare issue are these sanctions. They are an absolute disaster and they are driving people further into real poverty and huge debt.

“The whole point of the sanctions was to sanction people who are really not looking for work but what they are doing is the officers in the Department for Work and Pensions have targets to sanction.

“So people are being sanctioned for the pettiest of reasons.”