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Independent Scotland would bring in ‘essentials guarantees’ for benefits

The paper is the ninth on the Building a New Scotland series | Alamy

Independent Scotland would bring in ‘essentials guarantees’ for benefits

An independent Scotland would seek to implement an ‘essentials guarantee’ for benefits, which aims to ensure social security payments are high enough to ensure recipients can afford the basics, the Scottish Government has said.

Publishing its latest independence paper on Wednesday morning, the government said that a new system could not be “developed and fully implemented overnight” but in the short term ministers would seek to reform the current system.

Social justice secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said independence would allow Scotland to “move away” from the UK system of “benefit freezes, caps and punishment”.

The paper says the Scottish Government would aim to create a “comprehensive social security system” in the years after independence, but the “first priority would be assuring a safe and secure transition”.

It says the two governments would need to “work closely” on transferring social security powers “in the run up to and during the transition period”.

Ten early changes ministers would seek to make include removing the two-child limit on benefits, scrapping the bedroom tax, boosting take-up, improving support for young carers and rolling back on any changes made by the UK Government on work capability assessments as announced in the recent Autumn Statement.

Somerville said: “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.”

The paper, which is part of the Scottish Government’s Building a New Scotland series which together will form a prospectus for independence, also floats the idea of rolling out a universal basic income though does not commit to this policy.

No reference is made to pensions, which are set to be explored in a separate paper.

Previous papers in this series have looked at membership of the EU, citizenship and the economy.

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