THE UK Government has been told to freeze its re-introduction of benefits sanctions amid calls for a universal basic income scheme to help support self-employed workers.

Boris Johnson told MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions that the UK Government has considered the introduction of a universal basic income to help support people through the Covid-19 crisis but stressed that getting people back into work was the strategy.

A universal basic income would see all citizens receive an allowance with the principle backed by the Scottish Government. But Nicola Sturgeon would need the approval of the UK in order to introduce such a policy in Scotland.

Lib Dem MP for Edinburgh West, Christine Jardine, quizzed the Prime Minister over the policy, pointing to the “three million people in this country at the moment who get no support because they are self-employed".

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She added: “The Prime Minister said that he stands ready to help.

“Will he look at a universal basic income so these people can get the help that they need now?”

But Mr Johnson stressed that the UK Government has “given very considerable support” to the self-employed during the economic shutdown.

He added: “Her further suggestion for a universal basic income is one that we have looked at.

“The best way forward for our county is to get the disease under control, in the way that we are doing, get our people back into work – build, build, build and take this country forward.”

SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, pointed to a decision by the UK Government to re-introduce a “benefits sanctions regime after a three-month freeze”, adding that “it’s heartless, it’s cruel, it’s unnecessary”.

In March, the UK Government said people on benefits and Universal Credit would not be penalised for 90 days if they failed to look for work, due to coronavirus – but that freeze has now expired.

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Mr Blackford added: "Will the Prime Minister announce right now that he will keep the freeze on benefits sanctions or will we have to wait until he is shamed into yet another U-turn?"

Boris Johnson told Mr Blackford that “he may be mistaken” over the support.

He added: “The UK Government is absolutely determined, dedicated to supporting people of all incomes across this country.

"That's why we've actually increased spending on benefits by £7 billion with Universal Credit and we stand ready to do more."

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, Ian Murray, has also called for more support to be offered to those currently with no income – as he pressed Scottish Secretary Alister Jack over pleas to extend the furlough job retention scheme.

Mr Murray said: "It's vital that both governments continue to protect jobs and support businesses by extending the current furlough support to those hard-hit sectors.

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“Even now, there are far too many who are falling through the cracks of government schemes”.

Mr Murray pointed to “many freelancers working through PAYE contracts”.

He added: "With many taxpayers in this situation going from full income to no income, will (Alister Jack) commit to raising in Cabinet the need for government to support those taxpayers that have received nothing and for an extended sectorial furlough scheme for Scottish industries?"

Mr Jack pointed to previous comments made by Chancellor Rishi Sunak that “we can’t save every business and we can't save every job”.

He added: “But it's been a huge rapid response from the United Kingdom Government from Covid-19, unprecedented sums going to Scotland in the form of £3.8 billion for business support and as I mentioned earlier, the 800,000 jobs that are being supported."