On Wednesday 3rd October, MSPs from across the Chamber, with the exception of the Scottish Tories, supported a Scottish Government motion calling on the UK Government to immediately halt the damaging and shambolic roll-out of universal credit.

Universal Credit is replacing six means-tested benefits with a single household payment. In council areas where it has already been rolled-out, including Stirling and East Lothian, design and delivery problems have resulted in drastic increases in rent arrears, homeleness and foodbank use – and left councils and local services under extreme pressure.

It is due to be rolled out to other areas, including North Ayrshire, from November.

The Scottish Government wrote to the UK Government as far back as March 2017 to raise urgent concerns and request an immediate halt to the roll-out until problems with implementation were fully resolved.

Anti-poverty organisations across the UK, such as Citizens Advice and Shelter, have also been consistent in raising concerns and calling for a halt to the roll-out.

Last week, it was reported that even 14 Conservative MPs have rebelled and written a private letter to the Work and Pensions Secretary, David Gauke, demanding an immediate pause.

The UK Government announced yesterday, however, that ‘universal credit is working’ and confirmed that ‘the rollout will continue, and to the planned timetable.’

Speaking after the debate, Ruth said:

“Despite warnings even from their own MPs, respected government advisers, charities, parliamentary committees and this Scottish Parliament, still the UK Tory Government is pressing ahead with the damaging and destructive roll-out of Universal Credit.

In full knowledge of the consequences of their actions, they are choosing to push more children into poverty, more disabled people into despair, and more vulnerable people onto the streets.

How arrogant, how heartless.

As an MSP respresenting North Ayrshire, which is due to get full roll out in November, I do not want vulnerable constituents left for 6 weeks or longer without any support – forced to rely on foodbanks, pushed into rent arrears, and even homelessness.

I do not want North Ayrshire Council and other local services to be put under immense staffing and financial pressures as they struggle to cope with the fall out.

And I do not want even more Scottish taxpayer money to be diverted into mitigating disastrous Tory policies that we did not vote for.

The UK Government must stop ignoring the overwhelming evidence that shows the negative impact that universal credit is causing – not just in Scotland but throughout the UK.

It is time for the UK Government to admit their mistake and immediately halt the roll out.”

North Ayrshire Council’s SNP leader, Councillor Marie Burns, added her support saying:

“The council is already doing everything it can to mitigate against ruthless Tory policies like the bedroom tax and ongoing cuts to existing benefits.

The roll out of universal credit will put more pressure on our most vulnerable residents and could potentially leave families without any support in the weeks running up to Christmas.

Tory councillors supporting this should hang their heads in shame.”

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