Delivering a Fairer System with More Positive Outcomes

Independence would give Scotland the opportunity to take a new approach to social security, designed to be fairer, more dignified and more respectful, according to a new paper published by Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Shirley-Anne Somerville.

The ninth paper in the Building a New Scotland series – Social Security in an Independent Scotland – sets out how the UK Government holds the majority of social security powers including low income and working age benefits. 

It evidences negative impacts of the UK Government’s current welfare policies on poverty levels, outlines the progress the Scottish Government has already made in creating a fairer system with limited powers, and demonstrates the ways an independent Scotland could go even further.

These include:

  • supporting and protecting everyone who needs financial help and support at any point in their lives
  • introducing early reforms to Universal Credit – removing the bedroom tax, benefit cap, two child limit, ‘rape clause’ and young parent penalty which have all been introduced by the UK Government
  • working alongside wider labour market, health and social policies to create a stronger and more dynamic economy like comparable European countries
  • stopping the rollout of changes to the delivery of reserved ill-health and disability benefits introduced as a result of the UK Government’s Health and Disability White Paper
  • moving towards a new system grounded in adequacy, such as a Minimum Income Guarantee, to ensure that everyone could have a decent level of income and live with dignity

The SNP Scottish Government is already using its existing limited powers over welfare to lay the groundwork for a better system.

Social Security Scotland is now delivering 14 benefits – seven of which are only available in Scotland, including the Scottish Child Payment – which tackle poverty and reduce inequality.

As a result of Scottish Government policies, an estimated 90,000 fewer children are expected to live in poverty this year, with poverty levels nine percentage points lower than they would have otherwise been.

This includes government estimates that the extended and increased Scottish Child Payment could lift 50,000 children out of relative poverty in 2023/24 – reducing child poverty levels by five percentage points, according to the most recent modelling published in June 2023.

The SNP Scottish Government has shown how much better Scotland can do when given powers over social security.

It is already establishing a system designed to correct the many flaws of the UK Government’s approach through the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP).

This important new paper in the Building a New Scotland series sets out how we are still limited in what we can do, however, and how much further we could go toward eradicating poverty in this country with the full powers of independence.

Scotland deserves to be at least on a par with similarly sized independent countries, not hamstrung by UK Governments consistently pulling in the wrong direction.


With independence, we believe Scotland can do better. With limited powers, the Scottish Government has already demonstrated that things can be done differently with an approach to social security that treats people with dignity, fairness and respect.

An estimated 90,000 fewer children are expected to live in relative and absolute poverty this year as a result of actions we have taken.

With the powers of an independent nation, Scotland could do more to make our system fairer and move away from the UK Government’s system of benefit freezes, caps and punishment.  We could move away from the UK Government’s system that offers inadequate levels of financial support and is pushing people into poverty.

The best-performing independent countries comparable to Scotland demonstrate that a strong social safety net is a foundation of a dynamic, innovative and productive economy, rather than a barrier to it.

We can become a stronger, fairer and more prosperous country – this government believes that independence is the best route to getting there.



Social Security in an independent Scotland

I’m Graeme’s Parliamentary Assistant based at Holyrood, but I support his constituency work as well. Having been Caseworker to an Aberdeenshire MP some years prior, joining Graeme's team in 2019 was a return to this line of work from a role in fundraising.

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