The decision to hand a knighthood to the architect of “cruel” Tory welfare cuts has sparked a furious backlash and been branded “appalling”. As work and pensions secretary under David Cameron, Iain Duncan Smith brought in some of the UK Government’s most hated welfare policies, including the bedroom tax and Universal Credit.

But the former Tory leader headed the list of politicians awarded gongs in the New Year’s Honour’s list after being given a knighthood.

SNP MP Pete Wishart said: “It’s appalling that Iain Duncan Smith – the architect of Tory welfare reforms, cuts and the discredited Universal Credit system – is being rewarded in this manner. Though, as a close ally of Boris Johnson and a cheerleader for Brexit, his inclusion should come as no surprise given the history of the honours system.”

He added: “Westminster is simply unreformable – what this situation demonstrates is that independence is the best way to ensure a modern democracy for Scotland.”

READ MORE: Rose Reilly among the Scots stars on New Year Honours list

A petition objecting to Duncan Smith’s knighthood on yesterday received more than 26,000 signatures in just over 12 hours.

A statement posted on the website by Mona Kamal Ahmed, who set it up, said as an NHS psychiatrist she had sat in A&E departments with people diagnosed with chronic mental illness who have been driven to “panic attacks, acute relapses of their depressive illness and suicidal ideation” as a result of the anxiety over the prospect of losing welfare payments.

She added: “Over the past decade of austerity, very little has demonstrated the callousness and incompetence of this Tory government than their treatment of people with disabilities and mental illness.

“There is no place for these cruel dehumanising measures in any civilised compassionate society, and the fact that Iain Duncan Smith, the individual responsible and the architect of such misery, is to receive the honour of a knighthood is an insult to the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable individuals across this country who are suffering as a result of his policies and to those who have tragically lost loved ones as a direct result.”

Duncan Smith headed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for six years from 2010. Under his stewardship the UK became the first country to face a UN inquiry into human rights abuses against disabled people.

The investigation concluded a range of austerity measures introduced into welfare and social care, such as the bedroom tax and cuts to disability benefits, amounted to “systematic violations” of the rights of people with disabilities.

Earlier this year, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston said “ideological” cuts to public services since 2010 have led to “tragic consequences”.

The National: Philip Alston condemned Tory austerity cuts in his 2018 UN reportPhilip Alston condemned Tory austerity cuts in his 2018 UN report

READ MORE: UN report issues blistering criticism of Tory austerity policies

His report – which was dismissed as “barely believable” by the UK Government – highlighted stories of people choosing between heating their homes or eating, children turning up to school hungry, increased homelessness and attempted suicides.

Professor Alston, who visited towns and cities across the UK, said some observers might conclude that the DWP had been tasked with “designing a digital and sanitised version of the 19th century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens”.

In 2013, Duncan Smith dismissed concerns about welfare cuts, claiming he could live on £53 a week after rent and bills. Shortly afterwards, it emerged he had tried to claim a £39 breakfast on expenses – which had been rejected by House of Commons authorities.

Duncan Smith unexpectedly resigned from the Cabinet in 2016, attacking the Government’s policy of welfare cuts.

READ MORE: Food bank use soars by 80% as Tory welfare cuts hit families

Other opposition parties have condemned his knighthood.

A Labour Party spokesman said it was “unfortunate to see that one of Boris Johnson’s first priorities” was to reward Duncan Smith – the “primary architect of the cruel Universal Credit system, which has pushed thousands of people into poverty” – with a knighthood.

“Boris Johnson should be trying to fix his party’s shameful mistakes, not give out rewards to those responsible for its failure,” the spokesman added.

LibDem MP Christine Jardine said Duncan Smith had been responsible for creating a welfare system in which people were expected to survive for weeks without payment, causing “untold stress”.

The announcement came as new figures showed the number of emergency food parcels handed out to Scots by one charity has risen by almost 80% in four years. In 2018-19 the Trussell Trust handed out 210,605 aid packages – an increase of 92,916 from the number provided in 2014-15.

SNP MSP Shona Robison said: “There is no getting away from the fact the Tories’ welfare changes and cuts are to blame for rising poverty and debt, homelessness and the need for food banks.”