On the day the Prime Minister launched the Conservatives’ Scottish manifesto in Edinburgh, the party’s Scottish leader told Sky News Scots pensioners would keep the cash.
Ruth Davidson, riding high in Scottish opinion polls, said that under devolution Scotland could keep the £300 winter fuel payments for all pensioners.
The controversial proposal to means test the payments was part of a social care revolution which was the centrepiece of Mrs May’s Tory manifesto published on Thursday.
But speaking to Sky News, Ruth Davidson said: “We’ve made a different choice in Scotland, in our Scottish manifesto today.
“We believe that there shouldn’t be means testing for the winter fuel payment.
“The reason that we’ve said that is – as many of your viewers will acknowledge – Scotland has a colder climate. We also have a different amount of housing stock.”
She added: “Devolution allows you to make different decisions. I want to use that money in terms of the winter fuel payment. Down South, my colleagues want to put that into the health service.
“That’s the sort of decisions that you can make in government. That’s what politics is about. Sometimes it’s tough decisions.
“I say that I want to keep the winter fuel payment here and devolution allows me to do so.”
Earlier, Scotland Secretary David Mundell told Scottish newspaper The Herald that the Prime Minister had agreed the winter fuel payment cuts should not hit Scotland.
“The specific view in relation to Scotland is that obviously we have different climatic issues and we have a different geography and there are far more people off-grid, who receive their fuel not from the gas or electricity grid but in terms of liquid gas, for example,” he said.
“There is a different backdrop in Scotland in relation to both winter and fuel and that’s why we believe in the Scottish Conservatives it should continue as a universal benefit.”
The Tories’ Scottish manifesto says: “We will also maintain all pensioner benefits in Scotland, including free bus passes and TV licences for the duration of this parliament.
“Social security devolution allows us to make different choices in Scotland and so we will protect universal Winter Fuel Payments for all older people and they will not be subject to means-testing.
“We will focus on ensuring that no pensioner has to live in a hard-to-heat home in Scotland by the end of the next decade through significant investment in energy efficiency.”
Mrs May has defended the protection for Scottish pensioners, saying devolution means different choices can be made in Scotland. But she insisted the plans for means testing in England were fair.
Labour said the policy was starting to “unravel”, while the Liberal Democrats claimed the Tories were “utter hypocrites”.
The latest opinion poll in Scotland, by YouGov for The Times, suggests the Conservatives could win up to eight seats in the General Election.
It suggests support for the Scottish National Party is 42%, the Tories 29%, Labour 19% and the Liberal Democrats 6%.