Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond used a meeting of leaders from around the UK at Downing Street to condemn the “bedroom tax”.
Mr Salmond said the cut to housing benefit for households deemed to have a spare room was causing “great social misery” and could end up costing the taxpayer money rather than helping to tackle the deficit.
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, attending his first meeting of the joint ministerial council (JMC) said the talks had been “businesslike and professional” but “there are issues on which we have differences, that’s no great secret”.
The meeting of the joint ministerial council was chaired by David Cameron and attended by Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Northern Ireland’s Peter Robinson and his deputy Martin McGuinness.
Before the summit, shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran said: “What Scots need tomorrow is action to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, not more grandstanding from Alex Salmond and David Cameron.”
But Mr Salmond said: “If Margaret Curran’s asking me to agree with David Cameron on the bedroom tax, she is gravely mistaken.
“The way you deal with the bedroom tax is to persuade the Government that this is a socially iniquitous imposition on people and something that should be reversed.
“If they are not prepared to reverse it now, then it has to be mitigated and to get it mitigated we have to know what the discretionary housing payments are for next year.
“You can’t have meetings where you nod your head when something outrageous like the bedroom tax is being imposed on some of the most vulnerable families in Scotland.”
Mr McGuinness backed the Scottish First Minister’s stance: “There is no doubt whatsoever that the concerns Alex has expressed are similar to our own.
“We have been involved in a series of discussions, not just with the Government here but also between ourselves in terms of how we deal with this situation.
“It can be very difficult for many people who have been impacted by the decision that has been taken.
“The issue of the bedroom tax is obviously a critical one, it’s one that has huge implications both for the Scottish economy and for ourselves but more importantly for the people who are directly affected by it, it causes an awful lot of distress and we’re very conscious of that.”
Mr Carmichael said the talks had been “very positive and constructive” and he was keen to maintain a working relationship with the Scottish Government.
“It shouldn’t be a question of coming to London once a year, I’m keen to keep lines of communication as open and lively as possible,” he said.
Welsh First Minister Mr Jones used the meeting to call for progress on further devolution of financial powers.
He said: “I made the point the business community in Wales wants to see movement on a financial package for Wales and that is not something that politicians are saying - it’s something the business community are saying.”
He added: “We need to make sure we have the right infrastructure in place for the future.
“We can’t do that if alone in the UK we can’t borrow money to fund projects in the future.”
Mr Robinson said he was able to report some positive news about the Northern Ireland economy.
“We were able to report that in Northern Ireland the economy is turning the corner,” he said.
“Unemployment statistics today indicate that Northern Ireland is below the UK average so we are getting a little more optimistic.”