Nicola Sturgeon has called on a Tory MSP to retract “appalling” claims that the bedroom tax does not exist.
Michelle Ballantyne, the Tories' social security spokeswoman, made the comments during a meeting of Holyrood's social security committee today. The South Scotland MSP claimed “there’s no such thing as a bedroom tax,” during exchanges with former SNP cabinet minister Keith Brown.
The UK Welfare Reform Act saw housing benefit reduced if the claimant is judged to have more bedrooms than necessary in a move widely labelled the "bedroom tax" by opponents.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs at First Minister Questions: "I am aware that Michelle Ballantyne, the Tories social security and welfare spokesperson said at a committee at a committee this morning that the bedroom tax does not exist.
“I think that will come as news to the many people who are subject to the bedroom tax - or would be subject to the bedroom tax but for the mitigation action that the Scottish Government is taking to make sure that nobody in Scotland has to pay the bedroom tax."
She called on Tory interim leader Jackson Carlaw to look into the comments.
"It doesn't augur very well if the Tories dont' even understand the basics of what people across the country are experiencing in terms of their welfare policies, then what chance do we have of persauading them to change them. "It's an appalling comment if indeed it was amde and I hope Michelle Ballantyne at retract it at the earliest opportunity. “The Scottish Government has been mitigating the bedroom tax since it was introduced and will spend more than £61 million through Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) next year to do so again to protect people from this shocking tax that puts people at risk of rent arrears and homelessness.”
Ms Ballantyne said: “The point I was making in Committee was simply that the “bedroom tax” - as it has become known - is actually the removal of the spare room subsidy on socially rented homes that used to be paid to families receiving housing benefit in socially rented homes where the size of their house was larger than the benefits they were entitled to. If the SNP want to confect a row over terminology that’s up to them.”