More than 327,000 children in Scotland were in receipt of the Scottish Child Payment by the end of December, new figures show.

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville called the benefit “game-changing” and described it as a “lifeline from the Westminster austerity agenda.”

The total paid out since the payment was launched in February 2021 has now passed £573.2 million, the Government said.

READ MORE: Scottish Child Payment to lift 50,000 children out of poverty

The payment for eligible under 16s now stands at £25 per week.

However, poverty campaigners have called for it to be increased.

In her budget statement last year, Shona Robison told MSPs that the Scotland-only benefit would rise next April, but only by the rate of inflation, taking it from £25 to £26.70.

That was despite Humza Yousaf previously promising to raise the weekly payment for low income families to £30 a week in his first budget.

The new data shows that as of December 31 last year, 327,650 children aged up to 15 were actively benefiting from Scottish child payment.

Of the 51,125 applications processed in the last financial year, 70% were authorised, 28% were denied and the remaining 1% were withdrawn.

John Dickie, from the Child Poverty Action Group said: “The Scottish Child Payment is providing hugely welcome support to families across Scotland, but if we are serious about meeting Scotland’s legally binding child poverty targets its value needs to be increased above inflation.

"It is bitterly disappointing that the First Minister has, as yet, failed to increase it to the £30 per week that he said during his leadership campaign he wanted to see in his first Budget.”

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Despite cuts to Scotland’s budget, the Scottish Government is prioritising support for families.

“Our investment in the game-changing Scottish child payment and other benefits is unparalleled in the UK."

READ MORE: Scottish Budget: Campaigners call for child payment to be increased

She added: “It delivers a lifeline from the Westminster austerity agenda and continued cruel policies, such as the two-child cap.

“These statistics show that we are reaching more of the people who most need our support as we continue to make tackling child poverty our key mission.

“It is encouraging to see that we are also continuing to do that more quickly, making progress in the time it takes from receiving applications to getting money into people’s pockets.”