Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, today raised his concerns at remarks made by regional Conservative MSP Jeremy Balfour on the welfare system.
Mr Beattie had written to Mr Balfour to ask if he supported the stance of his Conservative MSP colleague Brian Whittle, who had previously stated that the system of benefits sanctions “needs to be overhauled”.
In his response to Mr Beattie, Mr Balfour stated that he was ‘…unaware of Brian Whittle’s position… but my own view is the system in principle is correct and fair.’
Mr Balfour went on to state, ‘… individual cases are not always dealt with appropriately but I believe that is more to do with individual training than the system in principal.’
Mr Beattie today said: ‘If this is really what Mr Balfour thinks, then I’m highly concerned by his comments.
‘Firstly, he doesn’t know the position of those in his own party. Secondly, and most importantly, he thinks the sanctions system is correct and fair.
‘Thirdly, he thinks that if someone has been unfairly sanctioned that’s not the system’s fault but merely a lack of staff training.
‘I fail to see how Mr Balfour can take this issue so lightly. I regularly have constituents writing to me desperate for help due to the appalling lack of fairness inherent in the system.
‘People are being let down at a time when they most need help and support. I know of constituents who have worked solidly for 25 to 30 years, and are claiming benefits for the first time in their life, only to find themselves sanctioned as they missed an appointment through illness.
‘If this is Mr Balfour’s idea of a ‘correct and fair’ system then I shudder to think what he expects an unfair system to look like.’