Borders MSP defends bedroom tax denial

South Scotland Conservative list MSP Michelle Ballantyne.
South Scotland Conservative list MSP Michelle Ballantyne.

South Scotland Conservative list MSP Michelle Ballantyne has hit back at claims she denied the existence of the bedroom tax introduced by the UK Government in 2013.

Mrs Ballantyne told last Thursday’s meeting of Holyrood’s social security committee that there is no such thing as the controversial measure, sparking criticism from her Scottish National Party oposite numbers.

“There’s no such thing as a bedroom tax, so I wouldn’t even go down that route,” she told SNP depute leader Keith Brown.

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame was among those to take issue with that assertion, saying: “It is completely unbelievable that Michelle Ballantyne would deny reality like this, although admittedly not without precedent.

“These comments were outrageous, and her disregard for the real-life consequences of the hated bedroom tax cannot be ignored.

“She should apologise, and instead of dismissing the two-child cap or suggesting that the poor shouldn’t have children, perhaps the Tories should start listening to the real-life experiences of those facing genuine hardship as a result of the UK Government’s welfare policies.

“The Scottish Government will continue to do all in its power to mitigate these harmful policies and support those families affected by them.”

Mrs Ballantyne has hit back at that criticism, however.

Clarifying that the title of bedroom tax was only a nickname applied to the under-occupancy penalty created by the 2012 Welfare Reform Act, the former Selkirkshire councillor, a list MSP since May 2017, explained: “The point I was making in committee was simply that the so-called bedroom tax is not actually a form of taxation.

“It is the removal of the spare room subsidy on socially-rented homes that used to be paid to families receiving housing benefit when the size of their house was larger than the benefits they were entitled to.

“It’s disappointing that Christine Grahame and the SNP are choosing to confect a row over terminology rather than engage on important issues.

“As the Scottish Government start to exercise their new social security powers, my focus is to ensure that social security in Scotland helps people in the best way possible.”