Danny Alexander under attack for 'inflicting pain' on Scotland

CHIEF Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander was accused of "inflicting pain" on Scotland with the UK Lib Dem-Tory coalition government's budget during a Holyrood hearing.

• Highlands MP and Coalition minister Danny Alexander faces the Holyrood committee yesterday

The Lib Dem MP was also forced to defend the budget as "progressive" after he was labelled as the "Tories man" in Scotland by Labour MSP David Whitton during yesterday's finance committee hearing on the measures.

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Mr Alexander was quizzed about Chancellor George Osborne's budget, which included 11 billion cuts in welfare spending by 2014/15 such as a three year freeze in child benefit and a 10 per cent cut to housing benefit for those on Jobseekers Allowance for more than 12 months.

The Chief Secretary pledged to drive forward the Calman Commission's proposals giving greater powers to the Scottish Parliament, which he said would be a "major step forward."

But Mr Alexander the MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey was challenged over the budget's austerity measures by Mr Whitton who asked him "how he felt about making the poor poorer."

Mr Whitton produced a Lib Dem campaign leaflet from the recent General Election which he said named Mr Alexander as the Highlands man at Westminster.

However, Mr Whitton said that the Chief Secretary had turned-out to be" the Tories man inflicting pain on us all."

Mr Alexander hit back and said that the UK government's budget would mean that the wealthy were affected more than those on low incomes.

He said: "The measures are progressive in terms of the share of cash and incomes. I believe the budget is progressive.

"The Lib Dems and the Conservatives have come together to recognise the UK's problems, so the two parties are working together,"

Mr Alexander repeatedly defended the budget during the hearing, which he claimed was the first time a UK Treasury Minister had come to speak at the Scottish Parliament.

He said that the government had been left with "no choice" but to pursue an austerity budget, which he claimed was needed to reduce the UK's deficit.

Mr Alexander said: "The risk with failing to act is that we could have had cuts forced on us."

Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm challenged Mr Alexander and claimed that the package of cuts was "overkill" and would harm the poorest people in Scotland

Mr Alexander denied the claim and said that action was needed to sort out Scotland's finances.

The Chief Secretary went on to talk about the deadline of 20 October for the government's spending review, after which more deep cuts are expected to be hit services.

He said that he would be in regular touch with the Scottish Government about the affects on services north of the border.