A candidate for the Scottish Conservative party on Monday spoke out against the UK Conservative government's welfare cuts, saying they lead to the "humiliation" of disabled people.
Alongside first minister Nicola Sturgeon, Graham Hutchison was part of a panel in a hustings event in the Govanhill area of Glasgow ahead of May's Scottish election.
Pushed on whether he supported the UK government's cuts, the Scottish Conservative candidate surprised many in the audience by throwing his support behind Sturgeon, while condemning the welfare policies of prime minister David Cameron's government.
"I will say to all of you now in this room that I completely disagree with the Conservative government at Westminster's position in terms of the disability cuts which are taking place – It's unacceptable," said the Scottish Tory candidate for Glasgow Southside.
"Like Nicola says, there has to be a human aspect to these kind of things, it can't all be black and white because that's not the way life is," he added. "Disabled people need to be given consideration, they need to be treated like human beings, and the people who need benefits for disabilities should have them without any formal assessment like Nicola says."
Hutchison won applause from the audience for his admission, although the crowd had booed him earlier when he spoke against Sturgeon's record as an MSP and when he ruled out supporting a second referendum on independence.
After the event, Hutchison told BuzzFeed News he thinks the UK government's welfare policies inflict "humiliation" on disabled people and said he backed Sturgeon's proposal for foregoing tests on people with long-term disabilities.
"I don't believe disabled benefits should have been cut," said Hutchison. "There is a basic level of sustenance that everyone is entitled too, including disabled people especially, people that aren't able to go out into work – like Nicola said, there shouldn't be a blanket assessment for disabled people.
"There are people with particular conditions who will never be able to work who shouldn't be subjected to the humiliation of having to go through the kind of tests they're subjected to at the moment."
Asked why he remains in the Conservative party if he feels so strongly about the government's treatment of disabled people, Hutchison said he agrees with the party on the "vast majority of issues".
"I'm a member of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party, we are a separate party to the UK party, and there are differences in opinion with the European debate being the perfect example," he said. "It's a broad church, we encourage our members to speak out. We're not, taking the SNP as an example, a party with 54 MPs now in Westminster speaking with one voice."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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