THE SNP have issued a fresh challenge to Labour over their stance on Tory welfare policies, with figures showing that a cap on benefits has cost the poorest families in Scotland more than £70 million over the past decade.

David Linden, the party’s social justice spokesperson, has challenged Sir Keir Starmer to say whether his party will keep UK Government limits on the total amount of support households can receive.

It comes after the Labour leader faced a backlash over his refusal to commit to scrapping the Tory bedroom tax and the two-child cap.

The benefit cap, introduced in 2013, limits the maximum amount a working-age household can receive in welfare payments, with certain exemptions. Child benefit, child tax credit, housing benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit all count towards it.

The SNP said independent analysis shows this has made the poorest families in Scotland more than £70m worse off since 2013.

Around £40m has been deducted from housing benefit payments for families in Scotland since 2014/15, and an additional £30.6m deducted from Universal Credit payments since 2016/17.

Across Britain, more than £1.8 billion has been taken from the poorest families, including £746.8m in housing benefit and more than £1.06bn in Universal Credit.

In total, 28,188 households in Scotland have seen their housing benefit or Universal Credit payments reduced as a result of the benefit cap, including 24,546 households with children.

Across Britain, 661,362 households have seen their benefit payments reduced, including more than half a million – 570,331 – households with children.

On average, families in Scotland lose £50 a month as a result of the benefit cap. Since April 2023, the yearly cap has been set at £20,020 for a family and £14,753 for a single person. But the analysis has found that this has fallen significantly behind inflation, meaning households are worse off in real terms than when the policy was first introduced.

If the level of the cap had instead kept pace with CPI (consumer price index) inflation, it would be £17,233 for a single person and £25,720 for a family. The failure to do so means single people in Scotland are nearly £2500 worse off a year, and families are more than £5500 worse off a year, according to the figures.

Linden said: “Thousands of the poorest families in Scotland have seen their incomes slashed as a result of the pernicious Tory benefit cap, which has taken vital support away from working families, people with disabilities and those with caring responsibilities.

The National: David Linden said rejoining the EU and investing in Scotland's renewable energy potential is the only 'credible' plan to economic growth Image: NQ

“Having admitted he won’t scrap the bedroom tax or the two-child cap, Sir Keir Starmer must come clean on whether the pro-Brexit Labour Party are also planning to keep the Tory benefit cap, which will consign thousands of Scottish families to a life of poverty.

“While Starmer and Sunak lurch to the right, and take thousands of pounds away from families in Scotland, the SNP are the only party offering real change with independence and real help with the cost of living.”

He added: “The SNP government has spent hundreds of millions of pounds mitigating the benefit cap and other Tory cuts to household incomes – but every penny spent repairing Westminster damage is more money taken away from the fight against poverty in Scotland. At the next election, voting SNP is the only way to secure independence, tackle the cost of living and get rid of unelected Tory governments for good.”

The issue of Labour’s stance on benefits is set to become a key battleground in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election.

Scottish Labour candidate Michael Shanks last week tried to distance himself from the UK party by saying he would campaign against the “heinous” two-child cap policy.

But SNP leader Humza Yousaf said: “You can’t vote for something if Keir Starmer refuses to even bring it to Parliament.”