A Renfrewshire MP has accused the Prime Minister of “lacking a heart”, after demands to cancel cuts in Universal Credit were dismissed by the UK Government, amid warnings Boris Johnson is taking the UK towards mass unemployment and soaring poverty.

Gavin Newlands, SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, called on the Prime Minister Johnson to make the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent and extend the furlough scheme into 2021, as the economic impact of the pandemic continues to increase.

At Parliamentary questions this week, Newlands called for the measures to support workers and unemployed people over the past six months but was rebuffed by the Prime Minister – who has also refused to devolve financial powers, preventing the Scottish Parliament from taking such action for Scotland.

With unemployment on the rise as a result of the pandemic, the number of redundancies is expected to rise still further if the Tories scrap the furlough scheme this month, with analysis from Citibank suggesting unemployment could hit 8.5% in the first half of 2021 – the highest level since the 1990s.

Gavin told Renfrewshire News: “On Monday, I asked the Prime Minister directly to show he has a heart and abandon his reckless plans to cut Universal Credit, and to fix his Government’s broken furlough system. He refused to do so.

“The Tory government is taking the UK towards a devastating winter of mass redundancies and soaring poverty, which will cause lasting harm to our communities for many years to come.

“The SNP has been calling for a U-turn on Tory plans to slash Universal Credit, and scrap the furlough scheme, for the past six months. With a second wave of coronavirus hitting the UK, and increased restrictions in place, it is vital that, even at this late stage, the Prime Minister and his Government finally see sense and extend financial support to protect people’s jobs and incomes.

“I fear that just as the Tories did under Thatcher in the 1980s, unemployment – with all its appalling consequences – is deliberately being allowed to rise. For many, it is already too late. Thousands of people have already lost their jobs, and good businesses have already gone under because the Tories failed to deliver the support required.

“If the Government at Westminster refuses to act, they should give the Scottish Parliament the powers to intervene, protect jobs, and support those who have been hit hardest by the economic fallout of coronavirus.”