THE SNP have reiterated their demand that the UK Government reverse cuts to Universal Credit, as new findings reveal the impact on struggling Scottish claimants.

New research from the Trussell Trust – based on a YouGov survey of 1506 UK adults on Universal Credit, 121 of whom reside in Scotland – found that over one in three Scots receiving the benefit had been forced into debt this winter in order to eat and pay their bills.

Some 16% of those surveyed had needed to visit a food bank at least once since the start of December, and 36% said there was more than one day in the past month where they either did not eat or had only one meal, while 30% could not afford to heat their home for more than four days across the month.

Dee, a 60-year-old from Aberdeen who now receives Universal Credit after being made redundant from the building sector, told the charity: “It’s just so disheartening to think that I’m in debt through no fault of my own. It still won’t be paid off until I’m well into my pension. It’s causing me ongoing stress to feel like I’m never getting to the end of it.”

The SNP have called on the UK Government to reverse the £20 cut to Universal Credit and scrap the controversial five-week wait Universal Credit claimants must endure to receive their first payment, which has forced some to take out advance payment loans or fall into further debt.

SNP MP David Linden commented: “Next week’s UK budget is an opportunity for the Tory government to start to right so many wrongs – I am urging them to take it. The Scottish Government is already doing what it can with its limited powers, including doubling the Scottish Child Payment, but without full fiscal powers, it can only go so far. It's time Westminster matched Holyrood's ambition when it comes to tackling poverty. 

“The £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit in November and the five-year freeze on benefits rates, brought in by the Tory government, means these payments are worth 11% less than they were a decade ago. It is vital that the UK government reinstate the £20 uplift and extend it to legacy benefits in the upcoming Spring Budget to help people through the cost-of-living crisis.

“Beyond this, the Chancellor must also turn the £200 energy loan into a more generous grant, bring in a Real Living Wage, and match the Scottish Child Payment. The DWP must also finally scrap the debt-inducing five-week wait and advance payment loan.”

The Trussell Trust was warned that the situation will only worsen, with inflation set to hit at least 7% in April. While the UK Government is due to increase benefit levels by 3.1% – amounting to a rise of just £2 per week – the charity is calling for an increase of at least 7%.

Polly Jones, head of Scotland at the Trussell Trust, said: “Social security should be protecting people from debt and food banks – not pushing them towards it.

“This isn’t right. We know the situation is only set to get worse and we cannot wait any longer. That’s why we are calling on the UK Government to bring benefits in line with the forecast rate of inflation as a bare minimum in the upcoming Spring Statement, to prevent thousands more people across Scotland being forced into debt and through the doors of food banks. We are also calling on the Scottish Government to invest further in the Scottish Welfare Fund so that no one needs to use a food bank to get by.”