Setting strong foundations for social security in Scotland
We are now just one day away from MSPs debating the legislation that will enable the single biggest transfer of powers to the Scottish Parliament since devolution.
As far back as 2016 we have been talking to and, importantly, listening to many individuals, organisations and groups with direct and personal experience of the current UK welfare system and all of that has contributed to the Social Security (Scotland) Bill introduced by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance MSP on 20 June 2017.
That strong first draft has been improved and made stronger in many ways since then, through more discussion with stakeholders and the hard work of MSPs on the Parliament’s Social Security Committee.
We have worked hard to hear everyone’s views and where possible, we have used these to make improvements to the Bill. And where it hasn’t been possible – because we disagreed or we don’t have the necessary powers, we’ve tried very hard to clearly explain our reasons.
So the Bill MSPs from all parties will vote on this week is the sum of our collective efforts. We all have a stake in it and the new social security service for Scotland will be built on the foundation it lays.
But with the legislation agreed, the work doesn’t stop. The success of the new public service we are building depends on all of us continuing to work together, in collaboration, encouraging consultation and welcoming scrutiny and challenge.
We’ll be strongly supported in that through an important part of the legislation – the setting up an independent scrutiny body – the Scottish Commission on Social Security. The commission’s job will be to add to Parliament’s scrutiny, making sure that this – and future – Scottish Government’s comply with the principles of the founding legislation and with human rights.
For our new laws and new agency to have public confidence, they must be publicly accountable. Elected representatives and government will have the benefit of expert advice from the new independent commission, as they consider future proposals for social security in Scotland.
The Social Security (Scotland) Stage 3 vote will make this a historic week. But the work of Parliament doesn’t stop here. This new commission will help to empower Parliament and provide the tools it needs to get this right and deliver, as one of our Experience Panel members put it – a service that “is not just a bit better but one that is great”.