Scottish independence poses risk to UK welfare system

Immediately separating the administration of the welfare system in the event of Scotland opting to become an independent state "would present serious risks to the continuity of payments to people in both Scotland and England", according to a new report.

Immediately separating the administration of the welfare system in the event of Scotland opting to become an independent state “would present serious risks to the continuity of payments to people in both Scotland and England”, according to a new report.

The study by the Scottish government’s Expert Working Group on Welfare, established by ministers in January 2013, presents a number of warnings about the dependence both Scotland and England have on each other in delivering welfare benefits and warns against any rush to Scotland breaking away altogether from the UK system.

The report notes:

“In the course of our work…we have also discovered that Scotland provides a wide range of services to England. Some of these services are significant, such as working age benefit processing for London and services for pensioners in England, and involve a claimant count measured in millions rather than thousands.”

It continues:

“…We believe that this common interest is underpinned by an obligation to ensure continuity of service to benefit claimants across the nations of the United Kingdom. We also believe that formalising the current arrangements into an agreed set of ‘shared services’ would safeguard delivery, as well as being the most efficient and cost effective arrangement for both governments in a period of transition.

“Given the important role that Scotland currently plays in delivering benefits to claimants in the rest of the UK, we believe it is the interests of both the Scottish and UK governments to introduce a programme of information sharing and begin discussions about how benefits would continue to be delivered for all claimants in the UK in the event of Scottish independence.”

Welcoming the report, deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon responded:

“Given that many people in Scotland are concerned about the welfare policies of the UK government, I am very clear that a transitional period of shared administration would only be in Scotland’s interests if it allows us from day one of independence, to address the inequities of the current system and work towards a system that better reflects Scotland’s needs and circumstances.

“The fact that Northern Ireland already has policy flexibility within a system of shared administration suggests that such an arrangement is perfectly possible. However, I welcome the report’s conclusion that all options for delivery are possible.”

Arguing that the report provides “the foundation we need to ensure the delivery of welfare from the point of independence”, Ms Sturgeon announced that ministers would shortly be providing details of the next stage of work looking at the medium to longer-term options for reform of the welfare system and the delivery models that will best support this.

In concluding, however, that the report further highlights the “impossible” task the Scottish government is set on achieving in seeking the best of both independence and UK membership, Scottish secretary Michael Moore said:

“It seems that time and again we wait for the Scottish government to unveil one of their main building blocks of an independent Scotland only for questions to emerge where answers should be.

“It is just not credible when the supporters of independence tell us that by leaving the UK we would retain everything we wanted – with specific requests granted by the rest of the United Kingdom.

“The Scottish government seem to have their heart set on the impossible. They want to leave the UK and keep the UK welfare system. But they only want to keep the UK welfare system if they can insist upon immediate policy changes. I think most people in Scotland will regard this as a self-defeating contortion.”

Writing on the Better Together blog meanwhile, the campaign’s chair, Alistair Darling, was equally critical, observing:

“Rather than making the case for breaking up Britain, it is clear that the more the nationalists look at the benefits to Scotland and the rest of the UK of keeping the Union the more they understand that separation makes no sense.

“It’s clear that most people in Scotland want the security and opportunity that being part of something bigger offers. The SNP want us to give this up.”

He continued:

“The SNP have spent the last 80 years saying that the United Kingdom is the source of all our problems. Now they tell us that in fact pooling our resources with the rest of the UK makes sense. This is an argument for devolution, not separation.

“Slowly but surely the nationalists appear to be coming to the view that we are, in fact, better together.”

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34 Responses to “Scottish independence poses risk to UK welfare system”

  1. Juteman

    Such spin on a straightforward issue. I was going to comment, but the right wing attitude to Scottish independence just leaves me feeling sad.
    What happened?

  2. Alec

    I think the use of “right wing” to describe anything the speaker doesn’t like jumped the shark a long time ago. It’s right wing now to argue for the perpetuation of a functioning and universal welfare system?

  3. treborc1

    How low can they sink to, I suspect the real worry is Scotland will give better benefits and England with labour would be cutting after all that’s what Miliband and Balls have signaled Labour would do.. even Wales are now talking we may be better off going independent..

  4. David Kendrick

    I would be more worried about a country which will have to import most of its food. What it does grow is exported as luxury goods(£7.5 billion). I would give them at £40 per person per week for 5,295,000 people an annual food bill of £11.23 billion at a time when speculation in the commodities market is rife, markets love change.

  5. Don


  6. Baxter Parp

    It’s right-wing to want to deny the Scottish people their self-determination based on the scare stories and bogeymen concoted by the right-wing Better Together campaign, yes.

  7. Alec

    There’s a referendum coming-up, you numpty. No-one’s being denied the opportunity to vote in it (well, various proscriptive measures imposed are doing that, but you know what I mean).
    If right wing means anything any more, then the totalitarian numbskulls who descend on threads like this to whine and whine and whine and then scream a bit before shouting then returning to whining and whining and whining about media outlets not toeing their line is a good start.
    If anyone’s seeking to curtail other’s ability to express their views, it’s you miladdio.

  8. Alec


  9. David Kendrick

    They have more immediate problems in September 2014 than welfare, you can print money today, write all the cheques out, but you cannot grow food in under a season. Scotland exports its produce as processed luxurys and buys its essential produce in on the international market. People tend to riot with no food.

    I hope that helps.

  10. David Kendrick

    We will see what happens next year, it might not be funny.

  11. Alec

    Not really. I mean, I recognize the words and even the scenario as it could happen, but I still am a bit lost as to where it comes from.


  12. David Kendrick

    Lack of forethought, think of a country, most of its population live in cities and it has little to no viable farmland. It managed to support its population of 1.5 million in 1801 and can be expected to support its current population of 5 million – just – if it continues with modern farming practices, this of course means it cannot export its produce as luxury items.

    Question – If you make as an industry £7.5 billion per year exporting your goods to foreign markets would you drop that profit to sell a subsistence crop so citizens were fed when that is the responsibility of government. It is an odd question which has not been seen since the Irish potato famine.

  13. Baxter Parp

    Really? Here was me thinking I was just discussing the issues. A bit less hyperbolic invective would have made your point a tad more credible, I feel. As it is…nah.

  14. Baxter Parp

    Incidentally, do you deny that the Better Together campaign is led by right-wing parties? Does it not follow that it has a right-wing attitude to Scottish independence?

  15. Alec

    No, still lost. “Non sequitur” is commonly used on Internet discussions when “a priori” is more appropriate (albeit, in the something-I-don’t-want-to-address sort), but this line is thought is a non sequitur.

  16. Alec

    Indeed you are not. You have made no effort whatsoever to address the central point of the AtL piece, instead going into immediate outrage mode with accusations of right-wingedness in a hyperbolic way. Next you’ll be accusing me of ranting.
    Come back when you’ve got your Higher results and we will have a grown-up discussion.

  17. Alec

    Incidentally what? What does Better Together – a group I have no contact with whatsoever – have to do with this? Other than your devious effort to splatter the thread with unrelated information thus tying your opponent up in endless verification.

    On the generalities, it supports continued Union which it believes the voting public in Scotland should and shall approve. So, on your basic ‘point’, if it’s right-wing to seek to deny them the choice, it’s you doing it.
    That said, I don’t think Cybernats like you are well-formed enough to be right-wing… you just are a bunch of totalitarian louts.

  18. Baxter Parp

    Cybernat! The ultimate right-wing blow off of informed opinion. Unbelievable.

    The original post stated “the right wing attitude to Scottish independence just leaves me feeling sad.” Which you dismissed as a phrase used to describe anything one disagrees with, and I have now pointed out that all the parties backing the Unionist position are right-wing so the original poster was quite correct. I have to say those are some impressive carpet chewing mouth frothing rants you used though.

  19. Baxter Parp

    I haven’t adressed the piece because I wasn’t posting about it. It’s all about you and the attitude of the unionist campaign, chummy.
    As for ranting, it’s clearly your thing rather than mine.

  20. Alec

    You are just a bad mannered troll. You and the others who are ridiculing this post a web-based little soldiers who descend on threads like this to do what you do.

    You are Cybernats.

    And your outrage at being called such would carry more weight if you hadn’t just done a Cybernatty thing of calling your opponents “Unionists” then seguing from that to calling them right-wingers.

    Rules apply only to the little people, eh?

    The original post stated “the right wing attitude to Scottish independence just leaves me feeling sad.” Which you dismissed as a phrase used to describe anything one disagrees with,

    Because it was. No-one owes you any respect in argument. You have to demonstrate you deserve it by making your case, instead of droning on and on and ariston about what you want it to be.

    I have now pointed out that all the parties backing the Unionist position are right-wing

    You have done no such thing. You have, let’s be charitable here, asserted such. Not very well, because you haven’t given any back-up argument… just the dull belief that when you say something, it becomes true.

    Always be wary of someone who tries to present their opinnion as incontrovertible fact. It’s quite totalitarian.

    But, lettuce sea, following your childish syllogisms, there are right wing elements in the SNP – in the proper sense, as in economically liberally and/or socially conservative, not your infantile application of anything-you-don’t-like – so, by that token, you have to accept it’s just a right wing as Better Together.

    Ah-ha, you didn’t think of that, did you?

    Now answer the questions posed about the conflicts in Sturgeon’s special pleading and wishful thinking.


  21. Alec

    The issues are the piece being discussed which are outlined in the piece. You said you had addressed them.

    Now you are saying you haven’t addressed the piece because you don’t feel like it. You seem pathologically incapable about being straight about your own argument, nevermind adhering to basic blog etiquette… given that, there isn’t much point in taking anything you have to say seriously, is there?


  22. Baxter Parp

    David, do you actually believe that the Scots live on whisky or are you just being a bit of a troll?

  23. Alec

    Takes one to know one.

    I think he’s saying that because an independent Scotland would have to import much of her food, she’d be worse off than contemporary UK which imports much of her food.


  24. David Kendrick

    I believe most of them shop from the supermarket – which imports most of the stocked items, there are going to have in these islands 3 different currencies to price food from, and if you do not quite understand what happens – take the example of Ireland when it converted to the euro, it became worth shopping in Belfast rather than Dublin. Of course you will not see the effect till mid 2015, so when it happens I will just say I told you so an leave it at that.

  25. David Kendrick

    non sequitur to the article, but this is my thread and as valid as Juteman’s.

  26. Alec

    “My thread”?

  27. David Kendrick

    The start of this thread was my comment – it does not equal possession, but I have been sequitur to my own discussion thread, you have been commenting that I am non sequitur to my own thread. (Threads refer to blog posts). Rather than the article, if it was the article you would be right.

  28. Alec

    Ah, right, you’re another bad manner troll, this time engaged in sophistry. It never was your thread in the first place… you were always a guest expected to adhere to basic blog etiquette.

    That and your comments are not as relevant as Juteman’s (which, you’d observe, I consider ill-mannered). They were, at least, referring to the AtL piece, albeit in an unsustainable baseless way. Your comments have no more to do with it than the situation in Burma or the arrest of Rolf Harris.

  29. David Kendrick

    One of the odd things about trolling is that it is all about sowing discord and upsetting people, the problem here of course is that is you doing this, and if I am a guest, I am not your guest. If anything this is the right of the website owners to whom the right to speak freely on subjects we can be grateful for, they have however left the forum entirely open and without censorship. Therefore If I wish to comment on the price of wool and knitting patterns I can, there is nothing your sense of personal indignance can do about it. But thank you for your posts.

  30. Alec


    and if I am a guest, I am not your guest.

    You are not the full shilling, are you? Not only does the first bit flatly contradict your earlier position, I said no such thing as the second.

    Now, correct me if I’m wrong… are you a failed UKIP council candidate?

  31. Alec


  32. uglyfatbloke

    The left and right wing attitudes to both the union and independence leave me dismayed. .

  33. franwhi

    IMO what you call cybernattery is just active democracy. There is a longstanding democratic deficit in Scotland which the current devolution settlement only partially resolves. The argument for self-determination is drowned out by the UK political establishment and the MSM – which comprises individuals and groups who have all done very well out of the Union. If there’s another way for the majority of the Scottish electorate to have their social and economic aspirations met, to have a Govt that more reflects their choice at the ballot box then tell us what it is – tell us in what way we are actually Better Together. But there is no productive or progressive stance in just rubbishing your political opponent and rubbishing the Scottish Govt and its leaders who are there because the Scottish people voted for them and gave them a mandate to pursue constitutional change.

  34. LittleOddsandPieces

    A Free Scotland would protect its Scottish citizens from a London obsessed in abandoning the poor and taking every last morsel of bread from the lips of vulnerable adults, children and babies.

    The SNP have said in a free Scotland they would stop the bedroom tax and keep the welfare state.

    Austerity is the end of social medicine, state pensions, welfare state and leaving the poor to starve.

    To help bring about a free Scotland in the Scottish Referendum Vote in September 2014 and help against Austerity that kills at least for the poor Scots and to stop the farce of the usual 20% voter turnout out for referendums, you might care in all parts of UK to please sign the big 38 Degrees website epetition:


    The Swans New Park Org UK

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