Scottish Tory MSP raises concerns about Universal Credit

A prominent Scottish Conservative politician has spoken out about the implementation of a controversial benefit change that could leave thousands worse off.

Annie Wells. Picture: John Devlin.

Annie Wells, an MSP for Glasgow who is seen as a key ally of leader Ruth Davidson, has warned that the roll-out of Universal Credit could harm those most in need of help.

The benefit, a flagship of the Tory Government’s austerity-inspired overhaul of the UK’s benefits system, was designed to merge six working-age benefits into a single payment.

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However despite the changes being reportedly designed to ensure no-one is worse off than under the previous system, the roll-out has been repeatedly delayed and beset by problems.

Further cuts have lead to issues with pilot areas, and the nationwide roll-out has been delayed until beyond 2020.

Figures from across the political spectrum, including former Prime Ministers John Major and Gordon Brown, have urged a rethink of the policy.

In a letter the Herald, Ms Wells, who is the Conservatives’ mental health spokeswoman at Holyrood, writes: “Whilst I support the premise of Universal Credit, it is paramount that it is implemented in a way that sees nobody left behind.

“The most vulnerable in our society need to be reassured that their concerns over the impact of this rollout, in its current form, will be listened to and that it will not affect their day to day lives. To not do so, runs the risk of failing those who the system set out to support.”

SNP MSP George Adam reacted to the news, saying: “This is an incredibly frank, yet welcome, admission from a Tory MSP that the rollout of Universal Credit is having a damaging impact on people’s lives.

“There is no doubt has been a disaster - driving kids into poverty and forcing families to rely on foodbanks.

“But Annie Wells cannot hide from the fact it is her party which is responsible for Universal Credit and refusing to back down in face of truly devastating evidence of the human cost.”