SOCIAL security spend in Scotland will be cut by nearly £4 billion each year by the end of this decade – with women, disabled and young people bearing the brunt of the punitive measures.

Based on the latest forecasts, it is expected that the UK Government annual social security spend in Scotland will reduce by £3.9 billion by 2020/21. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people have lost or will lose some of their benefit payments.

Local authority level analysis indicates that West Dunbartonshire, North Ayrshire, Dundee, Inverclyde and North Lanarkshire will see the most significant falls in welfare spending by 2020/21 relative to their working-age population size.

The £3.9bn cuts by 2020/21 are in addition to the 9.2 per cent (or £2.9 billion) real-terms cuts between 2010/11 and 2019/20 that the Scottish Government will see in the day-to-day budget that pays for public services – and that is before the further £3.5bn of cuts that are expected to be applied to public spending across the UK in 2019/20.

Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman said it was clear the cuts would disproportionately affect women, disabled and young people.

This report presents the stark reality of the UK Government’s austerity programme which imposes unjust welfare cuts that not only continue to cause misery and push more people into poverty, but also directly affect local economies across Scotland and attract international criticism,” she said.

“These cuts are damaging our people and they are harmful to our communities. Every pound taken away from those entitled to financial support not only affects those individuals and their families, it is also a pound less that is spent locally.

She said the cuts were so severe that the Scottish Government would be unable to mitigate all of them.

“While we have used over £350 million since 2013/14 to mitigate against the worst damage, it is simply not possible to for us to mitigate all of the UK Government’s welfare cuts without major reductions in our expenditure in other vital public services, in growing our economy and in providing real opportunity to our young people,” she said.

The figures were released in a Scottish Government report detailing the impact of UK Government welfare cuts on people across Scotland. The statutory report, which was submitted to the Scottish Parliament, estimates the impact of all welfare measures passed by the UK Government between 2010 and 2017 drawing upon independent analysis by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The figures came as the Scottish Government put through regulations to help make Universal Credit payments more flexible. The regulations, which represent the first use of the new devolved social security powers, will give Universal Credit claimants in Scotland the option of being paid Universal Credit twice a month rather than monthly and having their Universal Credit housing element being paid directly to landlords.

“We have consistently said the new social security system in Scotland will treat everyone with dignity, fairness and respect,” said Freeman. “Introducing this flexible approach to Universal Credit demonstrates this and I look forward to the new regulations coming into force and making life that little bit easier for a number of people.”

The changes will begin this October, because Universal credit remains a reserved UK Government benefit, will be delivered by the DWP on behalf of the Scottish Government.

This year the Scottish Government will spend around £454m on measures that either directly mitigate the changes introduced by the Act or are part of wider measures tackling poverty in Scotland.

Freeman said the Scottish Government would continue to press Westminster to reverse the cuts.

“They need to recognise that social security is the foundation of a just and decent society and that everyone, no matter their social or economic status, deserves to be treated fairly and with dignity and respect,” said Freeman.