Rishi Sunak has been left humiliated after his PR blitz in Scotland to boast of the benefits of the Tory government connected with fewer than 20 people.
The Tory chancellor, who was in Scotland to talk up the Union and the Treasury’s role in helping overcome the covid crisis, made an online broadcast pumping up his own achievements which drew an average of 16 viewers.
Sunak arrived in Scotland to a full page Daily Record message from a cross-party group of politicians and poverty campaigners calling on him to “think again” on his planned £20 a week cut to Universal Credit.
But instead of facing the press or any of his critics the Chancellor opted for a highly stage-managed meeting with business leaders who were cued to give him soft questions on the government’s business support during the covid crisis.
The online stream showed the audience figures fluctuating from 16 to 13 for most of the 20 minute broadcast.
Angry opposition politicians used Sunak’s visit to demand that he “think again” on his planned £20 a week cut to Universal Credit.
The Conservative plan to reverse the £20 a week increase to Universal Credit brought in during lockdown in a move that will plunge 22,000 children into poverty in Scotland alone.
SNP, Lib Dem and Labour politicians said that the move would increase poverty and strain voters’ trust in the Union which Sunak was here to defend.
The SNP also demanded the chancellor to apologise for “prematurely withdrawing furlough and risking thousands of unnecessary redundancies”.
As Sunak hailed the strength of the Union and Scotland’s “innovation and ingenuity” while on visits to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Fife SNP’s shadow chancellor Alison Thewliss urged him to explain “why he is short-changing us on youth jobs” and going ahead with Universal Credit cuts that will “plunge half a million people into poverty”.
From July 1, employers had to pick up 10 per cent of their furloughed workers’ salaries, with the Government paying 70 per cent, while in August and September, the Government will pay 60 per cent and employers will pay 20 per cent.
The furlough job support scheme is due to finish at the end of September just as the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit introduced during lockdown is also withdrawn.