SOCIAL Justice Secretary Alex Neil has said he is confident that benefits policies better suited to the needs of Scots can be drawn up when welfare powers are devolved to Holyrood.
The Scottish Parliament will be able to take decisions about welfare as a result of changes outlined in the new Scotland Bill.
In the face of Westminster’s swingeing cuts, the Scottish Government, charities and groups need to rally together to oppose austerity measures and push for positive changeAlex Neil
Mr Neil is now calling on charities and groups that work with benefits recipients to consider how these powers could be used to assist people north of the border.
But he also said they must join with the Scottish Government and “rally together” against the austerity economics imposed by the Conservatives at Westminster.
Mr Neil will today start a series of discussions with key bodies on how the new powers could be implemented.
He will tell an event in Edinburgh: “In the face of Westminster’s swingeing cuts, the Scottish Government, charities and groups need to rally together to oppose austerity measures and push for positive change.
“We are united in our opposition to the UK Government’s proposed £12 billion benefit cuts and have called for clarity on how they could affect the benefits due to be devolved. I repeat that call today.
“Deeper cuts will present us with a real challenge, but today is about the positive future we want to create for everyone living in Scotland.
“By working together with our stakeholders to develop ideas on how we might use our new social security powers, and by listening to the people who rely on these benefits to cope with everyday life, I am confident we can develop policies better suited to the needs of the people of Scotland.
“We will need the help of everyone here today and many more to create a fairer and simpler social security system - one that does not stigmatise people who claim benefits and treats them with dignity and respect.
“These values sit at the heart of our recently launched Fairer Scotland discussion and our vision for a Scotland where people are healthier, happier and treated with respect, and where opportunities, wealth and power are spread more equally.
“Across the length and breadth of our country we are encouraging people to discuss fairness and equality issues - whether it’s social security, childcare, fair work or health. Today marks an important moment in our journey to improve the lives of everyone in Scotland.”
Professor Nicola McEwen, from Edinburgh University, will tell the event that the new welfare powers to be devolved to Scotland “will pose significant financial, political and bureaucratic challenges” but will also “present an opportunity to rethink the principles underlying social welfare, to be creative in the design and delivery of benefits, and to reflect upon where the balance between the provision of benefits and social care should lie”.