Tory Welfare Spokesperson Doesn't Know Which Benefits are Devolved

Michelle Ballantyne MSP faces further criticism in her position as the Tories’ welfare spokesperson, after it was revealed that she is unaware which benefits are reserved to Westminster and which are devolved to Holyrood.

Ms Ballantyne wrote to the Scottish Government to ask about work capability assessments three times, not realising that the assessments apply only in the case of Employment and Support Allowance - a totally reserved benefit.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Security, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, was forced to clarify this, stating that “both of these benefits are reserved to the UK Government” in replies to Ms Ballantyne’s questions.

This latest blunder comes after Ms Ballantyne was criticised for saying “there’s no such thing as a bedroom tax”, despite the fact the Scottish Government has spent £59.5 million last year to protect 70,000 Scottish households from this Tory tax; one that puts people at risk of rent arrears and homelessness.

Ms Ballantyne also claimed that there was no evidence to explain the growth in foodbank demand, despite even UK Social Security Secretary Amber Rudd MP conceding the role of Tory welfare policy in driving food poverty.

Kenneth Gibson MSP said:

“This just says it all.

“Michelle Ballantyne, in charge of Tory welfare policy in Scotland, doesn’t know what benefits are devolved, doesn’t know that the bedroom tax is and doesn’t know why foodbanks exist.

“The work capability assessment has been roundly criticised by many organisations, so it's no surprise that she wants to see the SNP Government take it over and to bring a culture of respect and dignity to people.

“Tory welfare cuts are driving more and more people in Scotland into poverty, and Westminster has shown time and time again that it is more interested in attacking vulnerable people than supporting them. The Tories’ refusal to admit that is unacceptable.

“That Ruth Davidson believes Michelle Ballantyne is the right fit for the job even with her antiquated views and lack of knowledge, tells us all we need to know about the Tories.”

Questions asked by Ms Ballantyne:

Michelle Ballantyne (South Scotland) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government what role Social Security Scotland's Local Delivery Relationship Leads will have in delivering work capability assessments, or the Scottish equivalent. S5W-21370

Shirley-Anne Somerville: Work Capability Assessments are carried out for someone who makes a claim to Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit. Both of these benefits are reserved to the UK Government. Consequently, Social Security Scotland Local Delivery Relationship Leads will not have any role in delivering them.

Michelle Ballantyne (South Scotland) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government how it plans to carry out face-to-face work capability assessments, or the Scottish equivalent, and what specific consideration it has given to people living in rural and remote areas and the islands. S5W-21372 Shirley-Anne Somerville: Work Capability Assessments are carried out for someone who makes a claim to Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit. Both of these benefits are reserved to the UK Government. Consequently, Social Security Scotland Local Delivery Relationship Leads will not have any role in delivering them.

Michelle Ballantyne (South Scotland) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government what meetings it has had with (a) stakeholders in the tertiary education sector and (b) City and Guilds regarding the introduction of accredited training or academic modules on work capability assessments, or the Scottish equivalent. S5W-21373


Shirley-Anne Somerville: Work Capability Assessments are carried out for someone who makes a claim to Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit. Both of these benefits are reserved to the UK Government. Consequently, Social Security Scotland Local Delivery Relationship Leads will not have any role in delivering them.


ENDS