LOOK in the small print of George Osborne's budget today and you are likely to find a nasty little cut of £250m in the Scottish budget between now and 2015.

Officially, it is to help fund a £2.5bn capital spending "boost" that is so modest as to be unlikely to add even 0.1% to UK growth. Yet in Scotland it means further cuts in public services that are already at breaking point.

This merely adds insult to injury. Remember the Chancellor's high-flown rhetoric during the 2010 spending review about "those with the broadest shoulders bearing the greatest burden"? Arithmetically speaking, that has happened. Because of reforms to pension contributions and Child Benefit, the richest 10% has taken the biggest hit. But the group to take the second biggest share of cuts (around 5%) is the poorest 10%, followed by the two deciles immediately above them.

Now the Scottish Local Government Forum Against Poverty and Rights Advice Scotland have put a figure on where the Coalition's £18bn of welfare cuts have come from. They calculate that around £2.1bn during this parliament will have come from the pockets and purses of Scotland's poorest people. It is hard to imagine so much money: more than 2000 stacks, each containing £1m.

The three groups to have lost most from benefit changes have been families with young children, people with disabilities and social housing tenants. Each group is losing around £500,000. Of course, some households feature in two or even all three categories. And while there has been a high-profile campaign recently around the forthcoming "bedroom tax", as this report observes, that represents less than 5% of the cuts being made. The biggest cuts are being suffered by those with disabilities who were previously deemed unfit for work, with thousands stuck in the appeals process against the flawed work capability assessment test.

Because claimants tend to be concentrated in particular areas, such as Glasgow and Dundee, the macro-economic impact of these cuts on the local economy is devastating, with knock-on effects on small retailers, hairdressers, window cleaners and the like, the very people the government is hoping will create work opportunities for the unemployed. Instead, they become part of an economic downward spiral, increasing unemployment and underemployment.

Local authorities and voluntary organisations, already trying to do more with less, are left to pick up the pieces. Penalising the poorest, who are not to blame for the deficit, is not only morally reprehensible. It does not make sense economically. As more than 90% of income from benefits is spent locally, injecting £2bn into the benefits system would be a considerably more effective way of kickstarting the UK's faltering economy than sucking £2bn out.