Tory MSP Michelle Ballantyne has faced further criticism in her position as the Tories’ welfare spokesperson, after it was revealed that she is unaware of 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, 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 Michelle Ballantyne was criticised for saying “there’s no such thing as a bedroom tax,” despite the fact the Scottish Government say they have spent almost £60 million to protect people put at risk of rent arrears and homelessness.
The Tories’ welfare spokesperson has previously hit the headlines for offensive comments on the two-child cap, and for claiming that “people on benefits cannot have as many children as they like.”
Ms Ballantyne also claimed that there was no evidence to explain the growth in foodbank demand – despite even Amber Rudd now conceding the role of Tory policy in driving food poverty.
SNP MSP Shona Robison said: “This just says it all.
“Michelle Ballantyne, in charge of welfare policy for the Scottish Tories, 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 would want to see the Scottish 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 offensive views, and lack of knowledge, tells us all we need to know about the Tories.”