Nicola Sturgeon has blasted Tories at Westminster over their failure to pause the rollout of Universal Credit, branding the decision “morally repugnant”.
The First Minister hit out after it emerged nine local authorities in Scotland are setting aside almost £9 million to help mitigate the impact of the Conservatives’ flagship welfare reform.
The contentious measure, which is being rolled out across the UK, brings six existing benefit payments into one.
However, critics have claimed the six-week wait some people have for their first payment is contributing to a rise in debt, rent arrears and evictions.
One of the areas where Universal Credit has already been brought in is Inverness.
Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Maree Todd said people were being left in “dire financial straits”.
She raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions, asking if Ms Sturgeon agreed it was a “disgrace” that local authorities were having to spend money mitigating against the impact of Westminster reforms.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The fact that the UK Government is refusing to pause the implementation of Universal Credit, knowing that they are are pushing already vulnerable people into debt, into rent arrears, making it difficult for parents to put food on the table to feed their children, is not just morally unacceptable. It is morally repugnant.
“I think every Conservative should be deeply ashamed of this.”
The SNP leader also used the issue to make the claim for full responsibility over welfare to be devolved to Holyrood.
She said: “The fact of the matter is Universal Credit is not working, that is being demonstrated in the pilot areas. So we need to see a pause to Universal Credit and we need to see that happen now before any other person has to suffer the indignities and the anxieties so many have already suffered.
“Again we come back to this issue about mitigation, as people across the chamber know we should mitigate where we can but we should not have to spend money that should be getting spent on education or health or colleges mitigating welfare cuts implemented and imposed by a Conservative government at Westminster.
“The sooner we get all of welfare powers into the hands of this Parliament the better.”
Prime Minister Theresa May recently avoided a Tory revolt on the issue in a House of Commons vote last week after making a concession and committing to scrap charges of up to 55p a minute to call a Universal Credit helpline.
She ordered her party to abstain on a non-binding Labour motion calling for the introduction of the reform to be paused.