THE National Lottery has been accused of "trying to cash in on misery" as it was revealed ticket prices are to double to £2 from this autumn.

Operator Camelot has announced the price of a ticket will increase from the current £1. The increase is the first since the lottery was launched in 1994.

The move prompted anger from anti-poverty campaigners and the Church of Scotland, with research showing people from less affluent backgrounds spend a disproportionate amount of money on tickets. It said those affected would be among the groups finding it most difficult in the current economic climate.

Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the Church of Scotland's Society Council, said: "The continued popularity of the lottery is a sign of the vast inequality in our society.

"It's an indictment of the policies of austerity that lottery ticket sales have increased and it is a concern lottery companies are trying to cash in on misery."

Paisley and Renfrewshire Labour MP Jim Sheridan also criticised Camelot and called for it to level out the prizes instead of charging more money.

He said: "The National Lottery has become a great British institution, but the top prizes of £5 million far exceed what we ever expected.

"Nobody needs that amount of money, but thousands of people could do without the price increase to play."

A 2009 report by public theology think-tank Theos showed skilled manual workers were significantly more likely to play Lotto than managerial and professional workers. It added that "insufficient funding" was being invested back into deprived communities despite the higher play rate among the less affluent.

A spokesman for Poverty Alliance Scotland added: "It is well established that people with lower incomes are more likely to play the lottery, so this price increase will have a greater impact on them.

"The lottery does support a great deal of work that tackles poverty and its effects.

"However, there needs to be a greater effort to ensure the monies distributed through the arts, sport and heritage are better targeted on low-income communities, allowing those who contribute most to really benefit from lottery cash."

A spokesman for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations said: "It's a surprisingly big increase and it obviously will have an impact on sales which will potentially have a knock-on effect on what money goes to charities and good causes in Scotland."

Camelot said it plans to make changes to prizes, with the prize for matching three numbers rising from £10 to £25 and four numbers increasing from £60 to £100. The prize pot for matching five numbers will drop by £500 to £1000, while the reward for matching five numbers and the bonus number will halve to £50,000.

Camelot claimed player demographics are almost an exact match with the UK population and most customers view it as a "harmless flutter".

A spokesman added: "Buying a National Lottery ticket is optional and it's entirely up to our players to decide whether they want to buy a ticket for any of our games.

"Lotto remains the biggest game in our portfolio and is essential to the long-term health of the National Lottery and the money it generates for National Lottery good causes. Our players raise over £30m each and every week for these good causes – money that is changing lives for the better for people and communities the length and breadth of the UK.

"It's worth noting the Church of Scotland has itself benefited from around £2m in National Lottery funding, while Mr Sheridan's own constituency has received over £12m."