Douglas Ross has again broken ranks with Tory HQ and has backed calls for the UK Government to extend a £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in March that those receiving Universal Credit will get an additional £20 a week to help deal with financial pressures brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But the Treasury has so far refused to commit to continuing the uplift beyond April.
The SNP has repeatedly called for the extra cash to be made permanent with one of the party’s MSPs, Shona Robison, this week warning that “if the Tories fail to act, we could see long-lasting damage for generations to come”.
Around 5.8 million people across the UK – including half a million in Scotland alone – are now claiming Universal Credit.
Millions have been pushed on to it after losing their jobs during the coronavirus crisis.
‘It makes a huge difference’
The Tory leader north of the border said the extra £20 had been a “vital safety net” for millions and it would be unfair to yank support as the pandemic continues to ravage the country.
He said: “Throughout this pandemic, Universal Credit has been a vital safety net for nearly half a million people across Scotland and many more across the UK.
“I don’t think it would be fair to pull support away from people while this pandemic continues to damage our way of life so deeply.
“The Universal Credit uplift should continue for the foreseeable future. I would encourage the UK Government to make that commitment now and provide the reassurance many people are looking for.
“It might not seem like a vast sum of money but to the families receiving this support, it makes a huge difference.”
A UK Government spokesperson said: “This government is committed to supporting the lowest-paid families and has already taken significant steps including raising the living wage, ending the benefit freeze and increasing work incentives.
“During this challenging time we have provided £9.3 billion extra welfare support to help those most in need, as well as introducing income protection schemes, mortgage holidays and additional support for renters.”