Ian Blackford has urged Scottish Conservative MPs to find a “backbone” and stand against the “callous cuts” to Universal Credit.
The SNP’s Westminster leader made the call during PMQs ahead of the £20 per week uplift to the payment being ended by the UK Government next month.
Raising the issue on Wednesday, Blackford asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson whether he knows how much cuts imposed by his government will cost the average nurse.
“This morning, we learned that the rate of inflation has reached its highest level in a decade,” Blackford told the Commons.
“For ordinary workers and families, prices are going up at the very moment when they can least afford it.
“Workers and families need more than just a winter plan for Covid, they need a winter action plan to fight a Tory poverty pandemic that is only going to get worse.
“So, does the Prime Minister know, and can he tell us, how much Tory government cuts to social welfare will cost the average nurse?”
Johnson said that the UK Government is “investing massively” in health and social care.
He responded: “What we’re doing is protecting people on low incomes up and down the country, and indeed… we are freezing fuel duty, supporting child care and of course by the huge package of measures that we’ve brought in, not least the living wage… which has already seen an increase of £4000 for every family on the living wage.
“But, more importantly than that, he talks about the income of a nurse, what we’re doing is investing massively in health and social care up and down the country which will help to fund, apart from anything else, the increase in nurses’ pay that they so thoroughly deserve, and I hope he will support that package.”
Blackford warned that the cost of living is “spiralling” and criticised Johnson for not knowing how much the cuts will hit key workers.
He told MPs: “My goodness, my goodness, an increase in nurses’ pay… either the Prime Minister doesn’t know, or he simply doesn’t care.
“Because when you take the cuts to Universal Credit and you take the increase in National Insurance, Prime Minister, the figure you were looking for is that the average nurse will lose £1736.
“Once again, this government is cutting the pay of key workers, the very people that we are relying on to see us through another difficult winter.
“The cost of living is spiralling and people are being left with a Prime Minister who doesn’t know how much his cuts are hitting key workers, and a secretary of state for welfare who doesn’t know how Universal Credit works.”
He continued: “If any Scottish Tories are in possession of a backbone, now would be a good time to find it.
“Does the Prime Minister expect any MPs from his Scottish branch office to stand against the callous cuts to Universal Credit, or has the Prime Minister already bought them off with promises of jobs in his reshuffle?”
The Prime Minister responded by pointing to bursary payments being made available.
He said: “Actually, what’s happening is that we’re funding the NHS across the whole of the UK, including in Scotland I’m proud to say with record sums.
“And we’ve ensured that nurses have access to a training bursary worth £5000, a further bursary (of) £3000 for child care costs, and that is before we put up their pay by 3%.
“And that is only possible because of the investment that we’re making, the measures that I outlined last week, the package that we’re putting forward for health and social care.
“And if he’s really saying that the Scottish nationalist party are opposed to that investment, if he’s really saying he would send it back, then I think he’s better off banging on as he normally does about a referendum, because he’s better on that.”