THE SNP have challenged Keir Starmer to reform Westminster’s welfare system following recent comments made by former prime minister Gordon Brown.

Speaking at the Lead Scotland summit, where he was the keynote speaker, Brown criticised the UK Government’s Universal Credit benefit system.

The former Labour leader (below) said: “Universal Credit is in my view discredited as a benefit. Half the people on Universal Credit are not actually getting the benefits they are entitled to because they’re subject to deductions.

The National:

“Because if you go on Universal Credit, you’ve got to lend money for the first five weeks. And then half the people, some people have got 30% of the benefits deducted so you’ve got declining benefits and you’ve also got deductions from benefits.

“Of course you’ve got things like the two-child rule, you’ve got the benefits cap, you’ve got the housing benefit limit, you’ve got the Bedroom Tax, all these things have been introduced recently.”

He added these used to last “one week out of two weeks” but now only last “two or three days” and that people are finding it "difficult to survive”.

“I think there’s a responsibility on all of us to review the Universal Credit system and see if we can make it better”, Brown added.

Starmer has come in for fierce criticism on benefits after he said a Labour government would not scrap the two-child cap and that it would be enacted “more fairly” under his leadership than the Tories.

The two-child cap prevents parents from claiming child tax credit or Universal Credit for any third or subsequent child born after 2017.  

Labour have also previously been urged to scrap the “rape clause” – an exemption offered as part of the two-child cap for families where a third child was conceived as a result of rape – but only if they can offer proof.

Commenting, SNP MSP Ben Macpherson (below) said: “The UK Government’s Universal Credit benefit system is not fit for purpose – it is uncaring and wrongheaded and anyone who speaks to those struggling in our communities understands that.

“Now, at a time when people are really suffering in a cost of living crisis, the Labour leadership have shockingly stated that they won’t do anything differently from the Tories to create a fairer UK welfare system.”

The National:

He called on Keir Starmer to “do the right thing” and scrap the two-child cap, the benefits cap and the bedroom tax.

“If Labour leaders cannot commit to these bold reforms, it will be clear they’d rather align themselves with the Tory status quo than help those struggling in our society”, Macpherson added.

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“In stark contrast, the SNP will always push for changes at Westminster and is taking action where we can to help those that need it most – with the Scottish Government spending over £700 million over the past five years mitigating some of the worst aspects of the UK welfare system, increasing twelve Scottish benefits by the rate of inflation, creating the Scottish Child Payment, and increasing the Scottish Child Payment by 150% since 2022 to £25 per eligible child per week."

Poverty experts have recently claimed that the Scottish Child Payment is "significantly reducing child poverty" across Scotland.

It was introduced in 2021 and provides families with £25 a week per eligible child.

Macpherson added: “If the Scottish Government had more powers over social security, and more financial powers, we could get rid of damaging policies entirely and build a better Scotland that is based on the principles of dignity, fairness an respect.”