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Ruth Davidson’s apologist-in-chief for the DWP axemen Adam Tomkins today claimed that the party had a “moral duty” to help the poor and called for a debate on the “social wrongs” he blamed for poverty.

Speaking ahead of the Scottish Tory Conference, Adam Tomkins said: “Benefits will continue to be one tool to help alleviate poverty.

“But focusing on benefits alone without addressing the causes has failed. There is no mystery surrounding the causes of poverty.

“But we will achieve more only if we have an honest and robust debate about the social wrongs that drive people into poverty.”

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that almost 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners in the UK were living in poverty under the Tories.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated that Tory welfare policy would drive an increase in child poverty across the UK to a record of 5.2 million, up from around 4 million.

Research has also found that the roll-out of Universal Credit and the widespread use of benefit sanctions has contributed to a steep rise in foodbank use.

SNP MSP Sandra White said: “The Tories lecturing anybody on poverty is a sick joke.

“It is the Tories in office that have pushed families across the country into poverty through their cruel austerity agenda.

“If Adam Tomkins wants to look at the root causes of poverty then he should look closer to home – to the vile, abusive use of sanctions that leaves welfare claimants destitute, or the botched Universal Credit roll-out that’s driving families to foodbanks.

“This is a party that wants tax cuts for the wealthy and a Bedroom Tax for the poor, and who’ve been busy shutting down jobcentres across the city Mr Tomkins is supposed to represent.

“The SNP in government are using our limited powers over welfare to build a Social Security system built on dignity and respect, and we’ve spent huge sums of money protecting Scots from the worst excesses of Tory austerity.

“But many of the powers needed to tackle poverty – to introduce a £10 Living Wage, to end insecure work and to stop the endless cuts to welfare – are sadly in the hands of a UK government with no interest in using them.

“The complete failure of successive UK governments to tackle poverty show exactly why we should have the full powers over jobs and welfare in an independent Scotland.”