The Scottish Government must come clean on how it intends to use its new welfare powers, coupled with costings and a breakdown of consequences for the Scottish budget, the Secretary of State for Scotland said today.
Speaking ahead of a Scotland Bill Committee stage in the House of Commons, which will focus on welfare, David Mundell called on the Scottish Government to choose “difficult practicalities over easy populism” and start laying out the detail and impact of its choices on welfare.
The Scotland Bill is set to transfer £2.5 billion of welfare responsibility to Holyrood, as well as elements which go beyond the Smith Agreement like the new power to top-up benefits in reserved areas.
The Minster said the Scottish Government now had a range of choices when it came to welfare, as well as many other economic levers it can use to help people into work.
The Minister said the fact Full Fiscal Autonomy would strip another £10bn from the Scottish economy - coupled with the latest Scottish Government figures on oil and gas production – and showed there was no way to escape difficult choices around welfare policy.
He said the UK was spending around £94bn a year on working age benefits, ensuring we have a strong safety net in place to support people who are unemployed or on low incomes.
He also called on the Scottish Government to clarify its position on the state pension and its funding, saying the current arrangement provided a fair, secure and equal pension to all citizens regardless of where they lived.
The Secretary of State said:
It is crunch time for the Scottish Government. They will soon be receiving the powers over welfare which they have long wanted; they now have to tell us how they intend to use them.
If that means higher welfare payments, they will have to be clear with Scotland how that will be paid for: higher taxes or cuts to services. Let’s be clear: they need to come clean with the Scottish electorate. People deserve to know the price tag of their policies and who will be picking up the bill.
The UK Government’s priorities are clear - to make savings on welfare so we don’t have to ask working families to pay more. All the while – on welfare, on pensions and on the economy in general – we continue to benefit from sharing risks and resources with the rest of the UK.