Scotland politics

MSPs pass Scottish welfare changes

Proposed new laws to "limit the impact" of UK-wide welfare reforms in Scotland have been passed by MSPs.

A special Holyrood committee said there were "grave concerns" over Westminster plans for a new universal credit.

The Scottish Parliament cannot stop Westminster changing the welfare benefits system.

But Holyrood moved to pass new legislation to ensure people still have access to certain benefits, after MSPs protested against the UK reforms.

The Scottish Parliament approved the Welfare Reform (further provision) (Scotland) Bill unanimously.

Single credit

The UK government wants to replace child tax credit, working tax credit, housing benefit, income support and others, in favour of a single, universal credit from 2013.

The coalition says the changes would save £7bn in welfare spending and encourage people currently on benefits to go out and find a job.

But Labour MSPs and the Scottish government said many in need of vital support would be worse off.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Holyrood: "The only way we can ensure Scotland is no longer subject to the kinds of reforms that David Cameron was setting out earlier this week, the only way to protect Scotland from that is to make sure powers for these matters pass to this parliament."

Labour's Drew Smith added: "This bill is not one which either the government or the opposition would wish to be necessary, but necessary it is and, when passed, it will mark the beginning of a new phase of considerations where we should look for opportunities to improve what we do, rather than just shore up our own parts of the system in the face of cuts coming from elsewhere."

Alex Johnstone, for the Tories, said his party had agreed to support the bill but expressed "disappointment" that it had become necessary to do so.

"We will continue to take the same position on welfare reform that we have had for a number of years," he stressed.

Last December, the Scottish Parliament took the unprecedented step of voting against a Westminster "consent" motion, under which the UK government wanted Holyrood's permission to change the law, so its reforms would fit the Scottish system.

MSPs decided to make the necessary legal changes themselves, and the Scottish government brought forward its own legislation to ensure policies tied to the UK benefits system, like free school meals and disabled parking, continue.

MSPs support some aspects of the UK Welfare Reform Bill, including changes to data sharing, industrial injuries benefits and a new commission on social mobility and child poverty.

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