Michael Matheson has slammed the Tory Government for sneaking out news about a change to Pension Credit eligibility that could see some couples in Falkirk district lose out on up to £7000 a year.

New benefit rules for mixed-aged couples – where one partner is of pension age and the other is of working age – were quietly released by Tory ministers earlier this week while all the attention was focused on the Commons vote about Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Currently, couples can claim Pension Credit – an income-related benefit meant to top up the state pension – as long as one partner is of pension age. But from May 15, mixed-age couples needing financial support will instead have to claim Universal Credit, which offers far smaller payments.

Charity Age UK has warned the change, which will affect new claimaints, could leave “some of the poorest pensioners paying a hefty price for having a younger partner”.

Mr Matheson said: “Pensioners in Falkirk district with a low income should not be forced to pay the price for Tory austerity. I’m also concerned that these new rules could prove a double whammy for women born in the 50s who are affected by the changes in state pension age eligibility and who have an older partner.

“It’s outrageous that the UK Government tried to use the chaos and distraction of Brexit to bury this announcement, showing complete disregard for affected constituents who might lose out on hundreds of pounds a month.

“My SNP colleagues at Westminster will continue to forcefully raise our concerns about the Tory Government’s welfare cuts – and the Scottish Government will keep working hard at Holyrood to tackle poverty and use our limited powers to create a social security system based on equality, fairness and dignity.”