Social Security (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 Debate

In a historic transfer of power, the Scottish Parliament will today debate Stage 3 of the Social Security (Scotland) Bill.

The transfer of 11 social security benefits to Scotland represents the commitment of the Scottish Conservatives to devolution and the implementation of the Smith Commission.

The Scottish Conservatives will support the bill but voice concerns about the lack of preparedness the SNP have already displayed over delivering devolved benefits.

The recent Audit Scotland report into the devolved security powers revealed that the SNP had failed to work out the cost of implementing newly devolved benefits systems and the Auditor General has suggested required staffing may not be in place in time.

Lastly, the extension of terminally ill patients’ benefits has been particularly welcomed by Jeremy Balfour MSP, having introduced the original amendment.

Michelle Ballantyne, Scottish Conservative and Unionist for South Scotland, spoke during the debate saying

"Colleagues across this chamber have worked hard to ensure that this legislation delivers that respect and whilst there were some disagreements, for such a complex and challenging legislative area its progress has been characterised by mature and thoughtful debate at every stage.

"Today we have taken an historic step in creating a Scottish Welfare System that is accountable to and tailored for the Scottish people.

"However, despite the smooth progress of the Bill as a whole I do still hold reservations about some aspects of implementation.

"The Auditor General’s recent report on the implementation of the Scotland Acts makes clear that, much like the expansion to 1140 hours of free childcare, there is still much work to be done if Scotland is to have a successful social security system that delivers on time and within budget.

"This is an alarming oversight, and although I understand that the Scottish Government is developing a five-year financial plan to examine this issue I agree with the Auditor General’s opinion that more detailed estimates of costs are required as the social security system develops, particularly in relation to IT systems, service delivery and recruitment."