THE UK Government is to claw back cash from low paid healthcare workers if they receive Nicola Sturgeon's £500 thank-you payment.

Scottish NHS and care staff who get Universal Credit will have their benefit amount reduced if they accept the Scottish Government's £500 bonus, a DWP minister has confirmed.

SNP MP Neil Gray has described the move as "cruel" and "Scrooge-like", and said the Conservatives should u-turn on the decision immediately.

NHS and social care workers who receive benefits payments are likely to be the most low-paid in general, working part time or have other unpaid responsibilities.

In a written statement to a question from Mr Gray, junior Department of Work and Pensions minister Will Quince confirmed that the £500 payment would be considered "earnings" from the UK Government's perspective, and so any universal credit payments would be "tapered" accordingly.

He said: "The Government recognises the vital role that all key workers including health and social care workers continue to play.

"Universal Credit (UC) is designed to ensure that people are better off in work by reducing their UC by less than they are earning.

"Bonuses are treated as earnings in Universal Credit and the taper is applied when the UC award is calculated."

It comes after a row broke out between the Scottish and UK governments over tax on the £500 payments, which Nicola Sturgeon announced at the SNP conference last week.

When revealing the plan, the First Minister addressed the Chancellor by saying: "Please allow our health and care heroes to keep every penny of Scotland’s thank you to them. Do not take any of it away in tax."

However Rishi Sunak said it was the Scottish Government's responsibility and it had the 'fiscal flexibility' to ensure workers could keep the money untaxed.

Mr Gray, the SNP's shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said: "This cruel decision to claw back money from NHS workers and carers is Scrooge-like behaviour in the run up to Christmas.

"The Tory government should be ashamed."

He added that the Conservatives should be offering the same payment to social care and NHS staff outwith Scotland, explaining: "This payment is in recognition of the extraordinary role frontline workers have played in tackling coronavirus - and it should be received in full without UK government deductions.

"After a decade of Tory austerity cuts, which have pushed millions of people into poverty, it is shocking that the Tory government is now planning further cuts - including a public sector pay freeze, which will leave so many frontline workers poorer and worse off.

"Instead of taking money away from our NHS and care workers, the Tory government should follow Scotland's lead and ensure workers across the UK get the recognition they deserve."

A DWP spokesman said: “We recognise the absolutely vital role that all key workers continue to play.

“The rules here apply to all workers bonuses which are treated as earnings and just as under the legacy benefit system, claimants would not have kept all of their bonus.”