THE number of Scottish families affected by the Tory Government’s benefits cap increased by 76% during lockdown, it has emerged.

The cap is a limit of the amount of benefits working-age people can receive, set by the UK Government.

During April, households in Scotland claiming Universal Credit grew from 20,000 a month to more than 110,000.

Charities like Shelter Scotland have warned the cap forces people into hardship, while the SNP says it is doing “real damage”.

As of May, new statistics show 6034 households were hit by the cap. Earlier in the year, in February, this figure stood at 3428.

Of those affected, 2157 households saw their needs-assessed benefits reduced by £50 or more each week. A further 743 households had theirs docked by £100 or more per week.

Chair of the SNP’s social justice commission Shona Robison said that if Tories were serious about improving lives “they would scrap this harmful policy” immediately.

She went on: "The Tories need to look at the overwhelming evidence that their policies are doing real damage to people - they cannot continue forcing the most disadvantaged in our society to bear the brunt of austerity.

"In government, the SNP has done everything it can to support those hit by the benefit cap - but as long as the key levers remain in the hands of Westminster, we are fighting poverty with one hand tied behind our backs.

"After a decade of cuts, and a global pandemic, it is now more critical than ever that the UK government starts taking poverty seriously and rebuilds the social security net it spent years systematically destroying."

Shelter Scotland director Alison Watson said UK ministers “should be focused on protecting families’ incomes and keeping them in their homes” during this time of crisis.

“But instead,” she said, “the benefit cap is forcing families into poverty and hardship at the worst possible time.”

She added: “By increasing funding for crisis grants, the Scottish Government has gone some way to plug the gap in household budgets, but this problem needs to be tackled at source. The UK Government must scrap the cap.”