PHILIP Hammond’s “appalling” comments blaming the disabled for tanking the economy will likely stop firms hiring people who have a disability, according to one of Scotland’s leading charities.

Hammond told a committee of MPs on Wednesday that the high number of disabled people in the workforce was “something we should be extremely proud of” but “may have had an impact on overall productivity measurements”.

The comment was quickly criticised, with Labour calling on the Chancellor to either apologise or resign.

Bill Scott, the Director of Policy for Inclusion Scotland told The National he was shocked by Hammond’s comment: “This will likely damage disabled people’s employment prospects. He’s saying an employer taking a disabled person will get lower productivity than a non-disabled person. There’s no evidence to suggest that.”

He added “Germany has the highest rate of employment for disabled people in Europe, it also has the highest rate of productivity.

“I’ve no idea what he was thinking”.

Speaking to the Treasury Select Committee on Wednesday, Hammond said: “It is almost certainly the case that by increasing participation in the workforce, including far higher levels of participation by marginal groups and very high levels of engagement in the workforce, for example of disabled people - something we should be extremely proud of - may have had an impact on overall productivity measurements.”

Scott pointed out that it was untrue to say there were more disabled people in employment.

“Proportionately there are less disabled people in employment than when the Conservatives came into office.

“The government has an objective to get a million people into work, well he’s just set back that agenda. It will discourage people from taking on disabled people.

Part of Inclusion Scotland's remit is to speak to employers and make the economic case for hiring a disabled people into work.

“He's just torpedoed that,” Scott said. “You genuinely despair at times about what's going through his mind.”

Around 7 million people of working age in the UK have a disability, or health condition but less than half of them, just 47.6 per cent, are employed.

Just under 80 per cent of non-disabled people are employed.

Labour’s Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams wrote to Hammond and the Prime Minister demanding action.

“Philip Hammond’s lack of remorse following his disgraceful comments yesterday which tried to scapegoat disabled people for a productivity crisis created by the Conservatives’ failed economic policies, is unacceptable,” she told HuffPost UK.

“I have written to Philip Hammond demanding that he come to the House and make a formal apology for his crass statement. I have also written to the prime minister. If Hammond fails to do so, then the prime minister must sack him.”

Susan Daniels, chief executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “The chancellor’s comments are deeply worrying. As the profoundly deaf chief executive of a leading charity, I’ve ignored everyone who ever told me to limit my ambitions and rein in my expectations.

“Given the right support a deaf person can do anything a hearing person can, yet we know that 56 per cent of deaf people have experienced discrimination at work and 25% have left a job as a result.

“In its words and actions the government needs to show complete commitment to breaking down the barriers to employment for deaf young people and others with disabilities. Anything less is unacceptable.”