SNP accuse Tory MSP of ‘chilling indifference’ towards benefit changes

Michelle Ballantyne was sworn in as a list MSP in 2017Michelle Ballantyne was sworn in as a list MSP in 2017
Michelle Ballantyne was sworn in as a list MSP in 2017
The SNP have accused the Scottish Conservatives’ welfare spokeswoman of “chilling indifference” towards pensioners who could miss out on benefit payments due to Westminster reforms.

Michelle Ballantyne was asked in a Holyrood committee yesterday if she would support a cross-party letter to the UK Government calling for a delay to pension credit changes.

The Tory MSP replied: “Do I care one way or the other? I probably do not, actually, if I am honest, because I am not sure that you will neccessarily get a rush of people taking it up unless some good work is done to advertise it.”

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It follows UK Government reforms which will force mixed-age couples to apply for Universal Credit instead – meaning a cut in income of up to £7000 a year.

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Only around 40 per cent of eligible people are making claims with just two weeks until the rules are changed.

The Scottish Government estimates the change will take £20.8m from around 3,800 mixed-age households.

Those who fall into the new mixed-age criteria have until May 15 to claim, if their payments are to be unaffected.

The Tory MSP previously faced criticism for claiming “people on benefits cannot have as many children as they like” as well as suggesting “there’s no such thing as a bedroom tax”.

SNP MP Alasdair Allan MSP called for Ballantyne to apologise.

He said: “This is just the latest instance of Michelle Ballantyne opening her mouth and accidentally saying what she really thinks.

“This gaffe shows a chilling indifference to the very real suffering caused by Tory cuts.

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“Despite being the Tories welfare chief, Ms Ballantyne clearly couldn’t care less about Scotland’s pensioners – she even says as much herself.

A Conservative party spokesman said: “The SNP needs to sort out its own shop before criticising others.”