The Smith Commission was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron on 19 September 2014 following the Scottish independence referendum. Lord Smith of Kelvin was given the task to ‘convene cross-party talks and facilitate an inclusive engagement process across Scotland to produce, by 30 November 2014, Heads of Agreement with recommendations for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament’. The Smith Commission report was published on 27 November 2014. It details Heads of Agreement on further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. The Commission further included two representatives from five political parties in Scotland.
Responses were invited from the public and with over 14 000 submissions the Commission has thousands of responses to analyse. Of these there are a significant number of considered responses from national and other organisations – on a range of potential devolved powers, including Welfare Reform. In January Scotland in the United Kingdom: An enduring settlement was published which details the draft legislation for a new Scotland Bill to transform the powers outlined in the Smith Commission Agreement into law. The Bill is expected to be taken forward during the first session of the new Parliament.
New Powers for Scotland: An Interim Report on the Smith Commission and the UK Government’s Proposals Summary
The Scottish Parliament’s Devolution (Further Powers) Committee has scrutinised the recommendations of the Smith Commission and subsequent proposals. Their report New Powers for Scotland: An Interim Report on the Smith Commission and the UK Government’s Proposals Summary was published on 14th May 2015. The report’s stated purpose is to provide a considered and constructive commentary for the new UK Government on the current package of measures being proposed for further devolution and where these can be improved. To see the full report click here.
Scotland in the UK – An Enduring Settlement?
Following the Smith Commission report, further consultation took place around ‘Scotland in the UK – An Enduring Settlement’ which will form the basis of legislation defining changes in the relationship between Scotland and the UK. The potential impacts of such legislation are significant for Scottish society, and could mean a major change for Scotland’s Third Sector.
- Social Security for Scotland: Benefits being devolved to the Scottish Parliament
- Social Security for Scotland
- Briefing: Scotland & the process of constitutional change
- The Barnet formula paper
- Scotland Referendum timeline
The Future Delivery of Social Security in Scotland
The Welfare Reform Committee is sought views on the practical implementation of the social security schemes outlined in the Smith Agreement and how we can use the proposed devolved powers to better deliver benefits in Scotland. The four workstreams the Committee consulted on are:
- Personal Independence Payments, Disability Living Allowance Attendance Allowance and Carer’s Allowance
- Universal Credit (housing element and administrative arrangements arrangements) and Discretionary Housing Payments
- The Work Programme and Work Choice
- The Regulated Social Fund, new benefits, top-ups and delivery of benefits overall
Following this process of consultation, the Committee published its report on 14 December 2015. The report makes a number o specific recommendations and also highlights some broad themes that should underpin a new Scottish social security system. Some of these themes are the need for:
- A non-punitive system
- A person-centred approach
- Coherence, simplification and transparency
The report also recognises some of the risks and benefits various options ie:
- Creating a new Scottish benefits agency versus contracting the DWP
- Striking a balance between national and local services
- Issues around taking a long-term or short-term approach
- ‘Topping up’ existing benefits or status quo
The full Welfare Reform Committee report can be found here.