Ian Blackford has challenged Scottish Tory MPs to stand up against the government's planned cut to Universal Credit.

The SNP's Westminster leader and Labour leader Keir Starmer both used Prime Minister’s Questions today to bring up the planned £20 cut to the benefit as well as plans to increase National Insurance contributions to fund the NHS and social care.

Mr Blackford said that is any Scottish Tory MPs "were in possession of a backbone, now is the time to find it" and urged them to speak out against the cuts, while the Prime Minister said the SNP MP should go back to “banging on about a referendum”.

Opposition politicians, charities and even Conservative MPs have urged the Chancellor and the Prime Minister to rethink the plans, however they have repeatedly said increase to universal credit was always supposed to be temporary.

Mr Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, said: “The rate of inflation has reached its highest level in a decade.

“For ordinary workers and families prices are going up at the very moment when they can least afford it. Workers and families need more than just a winter plan for Covid, they need a winter action plan to fight a Tory poverty pandemic that is only going to get worse.”

He asked the Prime Minister: “How much will Tory Government cuts to social welfare will cost the average nurse?”

However Boris Johnson said that his government was “protecting people on low incomes up and down the country” and added: “He talks about the income of a nurse, what we are doing is investing massively in health and social care up and down the country which will help to fund, apart from anything else, the increase in nurses’ pay that they so thoroughly deserve.

“And I hope he will support that package.”

Mr Blackford then appealed directly to Scottish Tory MPs, saying:” The cost of living is spiralling and people are being left with a Prime Minister who doesn't know how much his cuts are hitting key workers, and the Secretary of State for welfare, that doesn't know about Universal Credit works.

“If any Scottish Tories are in possession of a backbone, now would be a good time to find it.”

He asked the Prime Minister if he was expecting “any MP from the Scottish branch office” to oppose the cuts, adding: “Or has the Prime Minister already bought them off with promises of jobs in his reshuffle?”

Mr Johnson insisted the government was “funding the NHS across the whole of the UK”, including in Scotland, with “record sums” and said: “If he is really saying that the Scottish Nationalist Party are opposed to that investment, if he's really saying he would send it back, then he'd be better off banging on as he normally does, about a referendum.”

Sir Keir Starmer highlighted how nurses, supermarket workers and teaching assistants stand to lose more than £1,000 each under the Government’s Universal Credit cut, adding: “At the same time the Prime Minister wasted billions on crony contracts, cut taxes for people buying second homes and handed out super-tax deductions for the biggest companies.

“That’s not taking difficult decisions, that’s making political choices.

“So why is the Prime Minister choosing to take a tax system that is already loaded against working people and making it even more unfair?”

Mr Johnson replied: “It is absolutely ridiculous that he should attack the Government over salaries for nurses when we’ve put them up by 3%, on top of the 12.8% rise that we introduced, when we’re hiring 50,000 more nurses and when we’re just putting another £36 billion into the NHS and social care on top of the £33 billion that this Government invested when we came into office.”

Mr Johnson highlighted lengthy waiting lists, claiming his Government has a plan to deal with this.

Sir Keir countered: “I just wonder what the millions of people facing a £1,000 cut to their wages will think of that.”