THEY are known as “Skype families” – forced to stay thousands of miles apart because of the Tory government’s hostile immigration policy. This festive season, their only contact will be through the internet or by phone.

Now the SNP’s immigration spokesperson has called for the Tories to end the “restrictive” family visa rules which result in many families being separated.

The Government introduced income threshold requirements in 2012, which meant that any UK national or settled citizen who wanted to sponsor a spouse from outside the UK to live with them here had to earn a minimum of £18,600.

This rose to £22,400 after they had a first child, and an additional £2400 for each subsequent child.

MP Stuart McDonald said the income requirements were all the responsibility of the UK citizen and did not take into account the potential earnings of the non-UK spouse seeking to join their loved one in this country.

The Children’s Commissioner in England previously estimated that there were around 15,000 UK children growing up in so-called “Skype families”.

Last month, McDonald encountered a wall of silence from the Home Secretary when he called for a review of the policy and for Sajid Javid to set out an estimate of the number of UK citizens and settled people who had not been joined by their loved ones because of the restrictions.

The Migration Observatory found that the minimum income requirement has had a disproportionately negative impact on people in Scotland, as 41% of UK citizens in Scotland do not earn enough to sponsor a spouse, and 53% do not earn enough to sponsor a spouse and child.

This compares to 27% and 34% respectively in London.

McDonald said: “Rather than being able to spend time with their families and loved ones around the Christmas dinner table, many people with foreign spouses will be forced yet again to spend the festive period communicating with families over Skype.

“With the continued Brexit chaos there is now also the very real risk that the Tory government, obsessed with nonsensical immigration targets, could simply extend the restrictive income threshold levels to EU family members post-Brexit.

“Not only would that be a continuation of a devastating policy that has split an estimated 15,000 children from their parents, it would be a continuation of its hostile environment that is putting off people from coming to the UK and contributing economically and socially.

“I have repeatedly pressed the Home Office to ditch these cruel anti-family policies and adopt an evidence based approach that keeps families together, attracts talented workers and helps our economy and businesses grow.

“The Tories must either radically reform or scrap its disastrous family visa rules and wider immigration policy, or devolve the powers to Holyrood so we can implement a progressive policy that suits Scotland’s needs.”

The National revealed one such Skype family on Friday – Tony Duffy, who is in Edinburgh, and his American wife Julianna Colaianni, who is in the US awaiting an appeal decision after her application for a spousal visa was rejected.

Since that article appeared, Tommy Sheppard, the couple’s MP who has taken up their case, has branded the Home Office “modern-day Scrooges” and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has called for the rules to be changed to avoid families being kept apart in this way.