The SNP’s Westminister leader stood up in Parliament during a raucous first PMQs appearance by Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister which saw the former Chancellor square off at the dispatch box against the leader of the Opposition Sir Kier Starmer. Ian Blackford was met with a chorus of dissent from Tory benches after looking to challenge Mr Sunak over Universal Credit cuts.
Mr Blackford told PMQs: “As Chancellor, the Prime Minister slashed Universal Credit.”
“No he didn’t!” erupted the Tory benches.
Earlier the SNP MP had opened his remarks by congratulating Mr Sunak on becoming Britain’s first Prime Minister of Asian heritage, before looking to question the Tory leader’s “compassion” for those struggling while on benefits.
He said: “I congratulate the new Prime Minister on becoming the first British Asian to hold the office. The significance and the symbolism of this achievement is to be warmly welcomed by everyone.”
JUST IN: Tories to ‘settle down’ under Sunak as party has ‘turned a corner’
He said: “If people are actually to trust the new Prime Minister’s words about compassion, will he today reassure people and guarantee that benefits will rise in line with inflation in his upcoming budget?”
Mr Sunak replied: “My record on this is clear.
“Through the difficult times that we faced in this country through Covid, I always acted in a way to protect the most vulnerable.
“That’s because it is the right thing to do and those are the values of our compassionate party, and I can absolutely reassure him and give him that commitment that we will continue to act like that in the weeks ahead.”
He continued: “So if the Prime Minister is to maintain any credibility in the eyes of the people of Scotland, how long does he think he can deny Scotland’s democracy?”
Mr Sunak hit back by arguing that the SNP should respect the result of the previous Scottish independence referendum.
The Prime Minister replied: “He talked about respect, I would gently urge him to respect the result of the referendum.”
He added: “I can tell him that I do remain committed to working constructively in partnership with the Scottish Government to deliver for the people of Scotland.”