THE UK's welfare safety net has been "deliberately removed" and the Scottish Government has "reached the limit" of what it can do, a UN report concludes.

Professor Philip Alston, the UN's special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, published his final paper on poverty in the UK yesterday.

It says the welfare safety net has been "deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos" in a "clear violation" of human rights obligations, and steps by devolved administrations to mitigate the worst impacts of austerity are unsustainable.

The Department for Work and Pensions branded the report a "barely believable documentation of Britain" and said it painted a "completely inaccurate picture" of its approach to tackling poverty.

READ MORE: True toll of 'unnecessary' Tory austerity laid bare in UN report

But Scotland's Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “Today’s report from the United Nations is a devastating analysis of the UK Government’s austerity programme.

“The UK Government has presided over an economy which has become increasingly divisive with many people unable to obtain fair work and fair pay whilst salaries for those at the top only increase.

“The special rapporteur is clear the UK Government has been failing to listen and is ‘determinedly in denial’ in regards to poverty in the UK. The role of governments should be to help their citizens not fail them. It’s time the UK Government finally recognises the harm and damage they are causing and change direction.”

Alston wrote: "Devolved administrations have tried to mitigate the worst impacts of austerity, despite experiencing significant reductions in block grant funding and constitutional limits on their ability to raise revenue.

"Scotland and Northern Ireland each report spending some £125 million per year to protect people from the worst impacts of austerity and, unlike the United Kingdom Government, the three devolved administrations all provide welfare funds for emergencies and hardships.

"But mitigation comes at a price, and is not sustainable. The Scottish Government said it had reached the limit of what it can afford to mitigate, because every pound spent on offsetting cuts means reducing vital services.

"The mitigation package in Northern Ireland runs out in 2020, leaving vulnerable people facing a 'cliff edge' scenario.

"For devolved administrations to have to spend resources to shield people from Government policies is a powerful indictment."

Alston described Scottish Government schemes for addressing poverty, including the Fairer Scotland Action Plan and the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, as "ambitious", and called the establishment of a new social security system "promising".

Noting that the system aims to make benefits equally accessible, he indicated it is "too soon to say whether these steps – and Scotland's new powers of taxation – will make a difference for people in poverty".

The DWP said it is spending £95 billion a year on welfare and maintains a state pension system that supports people into retirement, adding: "The UN's own data shows the UK is one of the happiest places in the world to live.

"This is a barely believable documentation of Britain, based on a tiny period of time spent here. It paints a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty. All the evidence shows that full-time work is the best way to boost your income and quality of life, which is why our welfare reforms are focused on supporting people into employment and we introduced the National Living Wage, so people earn more."