I have already, in answer to previous questions, set out the range of measures that we are taking to directly support vulnerable households across this winter. More generally, we are engaging with people and businesses across the country. We have been engaging with industry and consumer groups, including fuel poverty organisations, to develop plans for what we can reasonably do to further support those in vulnerable circumstances.
The Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, Michael Matheson, met the United Kingdom secretary of state on Monday and pressed for further UK Government action on skills, industry and support for the most vulnerable, and we intend to keep making that case.
As the First Minister knows, there is just one week to go before the UK Government cuts universal credit, plunging over 60,000 families and 20,000 children in Scotland into poverty. Tory MSPs have spent this week defending the indefensible. Will she join me in saying to the Tories, “It’s not too late. Do the right thing. Defend your constituents and stand with the Scottish Parliament against these cuts”?
Yes. Obviously, as part of the cut and thrust of democracy and political debate, I disagree with and oppose many of the UK Government’s policies, just as the Conservatives will oppose many of the policies of this Government. However, I do not think that there has been anything quite so morally indefensible as the cut to universal credit that is planned to take effect in a week’s time.
Taking—at this time, in particular—£20 a week away from the most vulnerable, lowest-income households across the country simply cannot be defended in any way, shape or form.
I ask the Conservatives in the chamber—if Douglas Ross wants to get off his phone for a moment while we are talking about this really serious issue—to please, over the next few days, try to persuade their UK Government colleagues not to do this. It is their constituents, just as it is mine and those of every member in the chamber, who are going to find it difficult to feed their children, pay their energy bills and live with dignity if the cut goes ahead. For goodness’ sake, let all of us unite to say to the UK Government, “Do not do this.”