Scots have been sanctioned by the DWP over 400,000 times since 2010, figures compiled by the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe) show.

The staggering figure does not include sanctions that were later overturned on appeal. The punitive sanctions regime has been a key driver in the rapid growth in foodbanks under the Tories, with sanctions increasing after extreme new rules were introduced in 2012.

Claimants have seen their support suddenly withdrawn because strict, and often ludicrous, conditions have not been met. Some of the absurd reasons for sanctions include claimants missing appointments due to being at a job interview or being hospitalised.

Commenting, SNP MSP Ruth Maguire said:

“This is a staggering figure, that shows the extent of the deliberate cruelty inflicted by the DWP axemen.

“Sanctions have been shown to leave people in complete destitution and are a key factor in the rise of foodbanks under the Tories.

“With our limited powers over welfare, we’re building a Scottish social security agency with dignity and respect at its heart – and we’ve refused to use the discredited sanctions regime in our new employability service.

“But the extent of Westminster cuts to the welfare state show why we need full powers over social security in Scotland – not in the hands of the Tories.”