THE Scottish Secretary has been invited to visit a foodbank to hear from people directly affected by the "devastating" cut to Universal Credit. 

SNP MSP Neil Gray extended the invitation to Alister Jack after the latter said he did not personally know anyone receiving the benefit.

Mr Gray, who represents Airdrie and Shotts, insisted the decision to remove the uplift will drive thousands of families into poverty.

The UK Government introduced the £20-a-week boost to Universal Credit to help with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ministers argue it was always intended to be temporary, and the uplift was officially brought to an end this week despite widespread calls for it to be made permanent. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon previously said pushing ahead with the cut would expose "an absence of basic humanity and moral compass". 

Last month, she said the only conclusion it will be possible to reach if Boris Johnson goes ahead with the move is that he "simply has no shame". 

At the Tory conference in Manchester, STV's Westminster Correspondent Kathryn Samson asked Mr Jack how many people he knows who are on Universal Credit.

He said: "Well, I've got constituents on Universal Credit, I do case work for them."

Pushed on how many people he knows personally, he said: "I - not to my - no."

Official figures show there are 6,568 households on Universal Credit in Mr Jack's Dumfries and Galloway constituency.

In a letter to the Scottish Secretary, Mr Gray invited Mr Jack to come along to a foodbank in his constituency.

He said he hoped this "will give you the opportunity to hear from people who rely on this money – and who are about to feel the devastating impact of your Government’s decision to cut £20 a week from their household budgets". 

He added: "You will be aware your Government’s cut will hit around 480,000 people in Scotland at a time of rising food and energy costs.

"It will reduce the income of one-third of households in Scotland receiving Universal Credit by 20 per cent, with some households seeing the amount of Universal Credit they are entitled to reduced to zero.

"The hard truth of the matter is that your Government is devastating thousands of families with this callous cut. 

"The decision to take over £1,000 away from households receiving Universal Credit is going to push thousands of families (including many thousands of children) into poverty.

"It will leave many parents unable to feed their children and left in the painful position of having to choose between eating or heating.

"I don't see how anyone who has been introduced to some of the families impacted could support this cut when they understand the reality of what it means, so I sincerely hope that this invitation will help you see the real life impact and convince your colleagues to reinstate the uplift immediately."

A spokesman for Mr Jack said: "The Secretary of State was clear in his interview that his constituency office helps people who are on UC so he is well aware of concerns around the issue.

"However he believes it is right the UK Government’s efforts and support now shift to the Plan for Jobs as the temporary uplift in UC - which was part of the Government’s unprecedented response to the Covid pandemic - comes to an end."

A UK Government spokeswoman said: "As announced by the Chancellor at the Budget, the uplift to Universal Credit was always temporary.

"It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.

"Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the Government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.

"Meanwhile, the Scottish Parliament has significant welfare powers and can top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits in areas of devolved responsibility."