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12 November 2017, 06:41
The Finance Secretary has called on the Chancellor to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit to fix "fundamental flaws".
Derek Mackay urged Philip Hammond to use his autumn Budget later this month to change the benefits round-up to prevent it "pushing more families into poverty".
The controversial measure, which is being rolled out across the UK, brings six existing benefit payments into one - but critics have claimed the six week wait some people have for their first payment is contributing to a rise in debt, rent arrears and evictions.
In a letter to the Chancellor, Mr Mackay said the announcement by the Work and Pensions Secretary to offer Universal Credit advances upfront would "do nothing to fix the fundamental design flaws with Universal Credit".
The MSP said: "The Universal Credit system is fundamentally flawed and causing unnecessary hardship and suffering to families across Scotland. It is vital that the UK Government addresses these failings and that the roll-out is halted until the problems are fixed.
"I strongly urge the Chancellor to use the autumn Budget to pause the roll-out, reduce the first payment wait time to a maximum of four weeks, move to a twice monthly payment system and reverse cuts to work allowances. These measures would help ease financial pressures and stop pushing more families into poverty.
"The Scottish Government remains steadfast in its opposition to the Government's austerity agenda which disproportionately hurts the poorest and most vulnerable in society. We believe the UK Government position of persisting with the same failed austerity agenda continues to damage public services and the economy."
A UK Government spokesman said: "The best way to help people improve their lives is through work, and Universal Credit claimants are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than the old system.
"The vast majority of people are paid their Universal Credit in full and on time and advance payments and budgeting support is available for anyone who needs extra help. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government now has significant welfare powers including flexibility over Universal Credit payments."