More welfare powers added to Scotland Bill

MINISTERS will be able to “treble” dole payments and raise other social security benefits under sweeping new post-referendum powers coming to Holyrood, Scottish Secretary David Mundell has said.
Picture: Scottish ParliamentPicture: Scottish Parliament
Picture: Scottish Parliament

The UK government insisted amendments to the Scotland Bill unveiled at Westminster yesterday will make Holyrood the most powerful devolved parliament in the world.

But Deputy First Minister John Swinney claimed the changes to the legislation to devolve more power to the Scottish Parliament “still fail Scotland”.

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Scottish ministers will be able to “top up” all areas of the new universal credit (UC) even where these remain under the policy control of Westminster, the UK government said.

The Smith Commission agreement on more powers for Holyrood had originally indicated that only the housing cost elements of UC could be “varied” by MSPs at Holyrood.

But Mr Mundell said yesterday: “All elements will be able to be topped up. So if the Scottish Government wanted to treble jobseekers’ allowance, they could.” The UK government has already indicated that other elements of universal credit – child tax credit and working tax credit – would also be devolved.

But Mr Mundell made it clear Scottish ministers will have the power to top up other UC elements – jobseekers’ allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, as well as income support, which are now reserved to Westminster.

He insisted the amendments set out yesterday in the Commons will extinguish any concern that the UK government retains a “veto” over the new powers being handed to SNP ministers.