THE Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is “ignoring” the Scottish Government, it is claimed – after one quarter of official letters went unanswered.

The SNP administration wrote to the DWP on Universal Credit and more on 43 separate occasions between March 2017 and December last year.

Now it has emerged that only 75% of these received a response.

Na-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan, a member of Holyrood’s cross-party Social Security Committee, has accused UK Government officials of ignoring Scottish leaders and “disregarding” respect and parity promises.

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He told the Sunday National: “It’s shocking that the DWP are simply choosing to ignore concerns over poverty caused by Tory welfare cuts raised by the Scottish Government.

“It’s not just Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU that has been disregarded by the UK Government – we are being ignored on any number of things.

“Scots are quickly realising that we are not in the ‘partnership of equals’ with the UK promised by the Better Together campaign in 2014.

“The Tories at Westminster can’t go on ignoring Scotland – and their attempts to do so illustrate exactly why we’d be better off in control of our own future.”

The National: SNP MSP Alasdair Allan hit out at the UK GovernmentSNP MSP Alasdair Allan hit out at the UK Government

In July last year it emerged that Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey had introduced new rules barring members of the Scottish Parliament from directly contacting job centre teams to work on welfare problems brought to them by constituents.

While MPs are still permitted to call the Job Centre Complaints Resolution Team on Universal Credit, Job Seekers Allowance and more, MSPs no longer have that right, unless they first obtain explicit consent from the individuals they represent.

At the time, East Kilbride MSP Linda Fabiani urged McVey to reverse the telephone rule change, saying that MSPs “shouldn’t be treated as second class citizens” waiting for the post to bring answers for vulnerable people.

The move came after the Home Secretary enacted a rule barring MSPs from speaking to Home Office teams on constituents’ immigration cases.

READ MORE: Universal Credit blamed for rent arrears rise in Scotland

Last week the Trussell Trust foodbank network issued an urgent appeal for supplies as staff and volunteers prepared for what they expect will be unprecedented demand over the school holiday period.

More families are expected to seek help while free canteen lunch provision is suspended and many foodbanks are now operating school break services to bridge that meal gap.

The charity, which also operates elsewhere in the UK, says the switch to Universal Credit is amongst the factors driving the increasing need for food aid.

Deputy First Minister Keith Brown told the Sunday National that the DWP is creating further hardship for struggling households by making it harder for their MSPs to help them.

Brown, who represents Clackmannanshire and Dunblane and sits alongside party colleague Allan on the Social Security Committee, said: “The roll out of Universal Credit has been a total shambles, with experts and front-line services confirming the new system has fuelled a boom in food banks, reduced household finances and led to increases in child poverty.

“The Tories have created a two-tier system which seeks to deny support to vulnerable people, treats MSPs as second-class citizens, and attempts to undermine devolution.

“The SNP continue to hold this Tory Government to account to ensure that vulnerable pare protected. This underhand change must be reversed, so that MSPs can continue standing up for our constituents and fighting against Tory cuts.”

The Sunday National asked the DWP why it had failed to reply to so many official Scottish Government letters.

A total of 11 missives went unanswered during the March 2017-December 2019 period, the latest dates for which such information is available.

The contents of each individual message are not known.

However, Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the 43 letters included 23 on Universal Credit and 20 regarding “other benefits”.

A spokesperson for the DWP said: “This outdated information doesn’t reflect the fact that in many cases, correspondence was either responded to during one-to-one calls, or that we were able to answer several items in one reply.

“The fact is we continue to work closely at all levels with the Scottish Government on a range of issues, including to ensure the safe transfer of the wealth of welfare powers devolved through the Scotland Act of 2016.”