UK government to outline timetable for transfer of new welfare powers to Holyrood

David Mundell
David Mundell

A major milestone in the transfer of new welfare powers from Westminster to Holyrood will be reached today which will give First Minister Nicola Sturgeon the opportunity to create a Scottish welfare state within weeks.

The UK government is to lay the formal Parliamentary regulations which set out the timetable for the transfer of the first tranche of new welfare powers.

The move means that the Scottish Parliament will, for the first time, be able to legislate to tailor the welfare system to reflect local needs, including the ability to create entirely new welfare benefits in areas of devolved responsibility.

The regulations being made today set out a timetable for the transfer to Holyrood of a number of welfare powers, including the ability to:

  • Create new benefits in devolved areas
  • Top up reserved benefits (such Universal Credit, Tax Credits and Child Benefit)
  • Make discretionary payments and assistance
  • Change employment support
  • Make changes to Universal Credit for the costs of rented accommodation
  • Make changes to Universal Credit on the timing of payments and recipients
  • Make discretionary housing payments
  • The majority of these powers will be in place when MSPs return to Holyrood in September after their summer break. Discretionary housing payments will transfer on 1 April 2017.

    Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, said: “The Scotland Act 2016, which delivered the Smith Commission recommendations in full, makes the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved legislatures in the world.

    “The transfer of a range of welfare powers is a key milestone in giving the Scottish Parliament the ability, for the first time, to legislate on benefits and create a welfare system tailored to local needs. This includes the ability to create entirely new welfare benefits – a very significant new power, and I look forward to seeing how the Scottish Government will use this.

    “Crucially, these powers are being transferred while maintaining for people in Scotland the benefits of being part of a United Kingdom. Scotland has two governments, each with different but complementary responsibilities, and it is vital that we continue to work closely together in the national interest.”

    Cabinet Secretary for economy, jobs and fair work, Keith Brown, pledged that, in time, the powers will improve the lives of people in Scotland.

    Mr Brown said: “The Scotland Act is the most substantial change to the powers of the Parliament since devolution and, while we are already working to use these powers as quickly as possible to improve people’s lives in Scotland, we are well aware of the scale of this task and our top priority is the safe and secure transfer of these powers to ensure anyone in receipt of benefits receives the right payment at the right time.

    “We will work closely with Westminster ministers to ensure the transfer of these powers takes place as smoothly and as quickly as possible. This is the start of a process and these changes will be implemented on a phased basis over the coming years.

    “New powers on employability are among the most exciting of the new areas to be devolved as it gives Scotland the chance to create services that help long term unemployed Scots find work and stay in work.

    “We want to build a fairer social security system that supports the vulnerable in society and treats people with dignity and respect.

    “Devolving powers over Discretionary Housing Payments will allow us to have full control over the funding allocation for Scotland, in addition to the funding we are already providing to mitigate fully the negative impact of the bedroom tax.

    “We have already committed to extending winter fuel payments to families with severely disabled children and reform assessments for disability benefits.

    “While the Scotland Act does not go as far as we would wish, we will always use all the powers available to us in the best interests of Scotland.”

    Secretary of State for work and pensions, Stephen Crabb, said: “This milestone sees significant welfare powers handed over to the Scottish Parliament as part of our commitment to make Scotland one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.

    “We are delivering on our promises in the Scotland Act and we will continue to work together to ensure devolution that works for the people of Scotland and the UK.”

    The transition of welfare powers is being overseen by the Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare. The group will meet next in the Autumn, and work is ongoing to discuss the transfer of the remaining welfare powers under the Act (including carers and disability benefits, as well as maternity payments and funeral payments) which will transfer at a later date.

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