Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Experts to examine potential welfare system

The potential structure of the welfare system in an independent Scotland is to be considered by an expert group set up by the Scottish government.

Its members will look at benefit payments and make recommendations about how the system can reflect "Scottish values".

The new group includes people involved in public sector delivery, social policy, accountancy and economics.

It is expected to prepare a report for SNP ministers by May.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the announcement of the expert group was the "first step on the journey towards creating a welfare system which will support the economy and society of an independent Scotland".

She added: "With a Yes vote in 2014 we would begin work to establish a welfare system that better reflects Scotland's values, ensures fair and decent support for those that need it most - a system that protects the vulnerable and supports households rather than seeing them be subjected to unfair ideological benefit cuts from Westminster.

"The group brings together a wide range of interests and, importantly, people who will provide a meaningful perspective on Scottish government plans for our nation's welfare system following a successful independence vote.

"A fairer welfare system for Scotland can only be achieved with independence and control over all welfare policies so that we can devise policies for the benefit of the Scottish people, that reflect Scottish values."

'Jobs guarantee'

The UK government will cut support for families and low earners in Scotland by about £210m, on top of reductions already set out by the Department for Work and Pensions, said Ms Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish government's push for independence.

The members of the group will be Darra Singh, a director with Ernst and Young; Martyn Evans, chief executive of the charitable organisation Carnegie Trust; Douglas Griffin, a former finance director at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde; and Professor Mike Brewer, a research fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, University of Essex.

The referendum on independence is due to be held in the autumn of 2014.

Labour MP Margaret Curran, the shadow Scottish secretary, said the country was trapped between "a UK government that cuts tax credits for working families and a Scottish government that's prepared to launch another talking shop instead of a real plan to get people back to work now".

She added: "Today we see the SNP kick another difficult decision down the road. The Scottish government should be able to tell us now what their plans for welfare are.

"Labour has set out how we would ensure a fair welfare system backed up with a compulsory jobs guarantee that would make sure people who have been out of work for two years have to take a job or face losing their benefits."

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