What will happen to the welfare system in an independent Scotland?

The Westminster government’s approach to welfare has consistently been rejected by a majority of Scottish MPs and MSPs. If we leave it in Westminster’s hands, our welfare system is likely to be changed beyond recognition.

However, future Scottish governments can choose to do things differently from the rest of the UK. The current Scottish Government has committed to:

  • Abolish the “Bedroom Tax”
  • Halt the further rollout of Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments

With independence we will be able to develop a welfare system suited to Scottish needs and priorities. For example, the current Scottish government is committed to establishing a benefits system that is “fair, transparent and sympathetic to the challenges faced by people receiving them, respecting personal dignity, equality and human rights”.

It has also has pledged to ensure that benefits and tax credits increase in line with inflation so that the poorest families are stopped from falling further into poverty as prices rise.

In contrast, both the UK Government and the Westminster Labour party are signed up to the austerity agenda – which means a further £25 billion worth of cuts.

Can we afford our own welfare system?

Yes. Scotland spends proportionally less on welfare and State Pensions than the UK.

We spend 14.4 per cent of our economic output in Scotland compared to 15.9 per cent in the UK.

How will the benefits be paid?

Almost all payments to people living in Scotland are paid from locations within Scotland. No new infrastructure will be needed.

Will I get the same benefits and tax credits I currently receive?

Yes, you will have the same benefits and tax credits as you do now.

You will see no difference in how the benefits system works in terms of:

  • How much you are paid
  • How you are paid
  • Where you are paid
  • When you are paid
  • Benefit forms will not change
  • You will not need to reapply for your existing benefits or tax credits
  • Nor will you be reassessed

To put it simply, anything you receive now, you will receive in an independent Scotland.


What will happen to the bedroom tax?

The current Scottish Government is committed to abolishing the Bedroom Tax.

This deeply unpopular UK Government measure affects the most needy in society. 80% of households affected by the bedroom tax have a person living with a disability.

If we are a rich country why do I see poverty and food banks?

For decades, governments in Westminster have pursued policies that skew economic growth and opportunity towards London and the South-East. This has turned the UK into one of the most unequal and imbalanced economies in the western world.

The UK is the 4th most unequal country in the developed world. The wealth is not being shared equally!


What can an independent Scotland do to tackle child poverty?

Plans to tackle child poverty in Scotland have been published by the Scottish Government. The new strategy, which covers the period 2014 to 2017, is aimed at tackling the causes of poverty by addressing them early.

Key strategy aims:

  • Maximising household resources through advice on welfare and benefit changes, and help to find employment and manage debt.
  • Improving every child’s life chances through actions on educational attainment, health and early years development.
  • Making sure children’s environment is suitable through actions on housing, regeneration and community empowerment.

“We know that work can reduce the risk of poverty, but work is not always enough on its own. This strategy continues our preventative approach aimed at maximising household resources, improving children’s life chances and providing sustainable places.”

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

The Scottish government said that although child poverty in Scotland has fallen in recent years, it is set to increase to levels last seen in 2003-04 due to the impact of benefits reforms introduced by the coalition government in London.


What will happen to welfare if we reject independence?

The UK welfare system is scheduled to be hit with budget cuts which will penalise the needy.

A further £25bn spending cuts – much of it from the welfare budget – will be needed after the next election, Chancellor George Osborne has warned:

  • He said more austerity lay ahead, as the job was “not even half done”.
  • He suggested making welfare savings by cutting housing benefit and jobseekers allowance for under-25s and restricting council housing for those earning over £65,000 a year.
  • The UK, he said, was “borrowing around £100bn a year – and paying half that money a year in interest just to service our debts”.
  • Only by reducing welfare could a future government avoid either spending cuts in areas such as education, “big tax rises”, or increased borrowing.

It has also been reported that hundreds of thousands of civil servants and other government employees are facing the sack under sweeping Tory plans to cut back the state.

Any cuts to public expenditure in the UK have a knock-on effect on Westminster’s block grant for Scotland, leading to huge pressure on public services in Scotland – hitting everyone who relies on them.

Nicola Sturgeon said “The UK Government’s published plans show that day to day spending on public services as a proportion of national income will fall to the lowest level since at least 1948, when records began.”

There is even talk about privatising pensions, and plans to make benefit claimants prove they suffer from anxiety or depression.