Welfare

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Guest blog from Ken Gibb of Policy Scotland

The devolved nature of housing policy might be considered less relevant to the debates around the devolution of further powers. However, as with so much in this space, it is not quite so simple. In the first place, housing is not completely devolved. Second, there are important facets of Smith’s proposals, which do speak directly to the housing sector, its tenants and communities.

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Devolution (Further Powers) Committee, 11 December 2014 - Evidence from Professor Nicola McEwen, ESRC Centre on Constitutional Change, University of Edinburgh

This paper outlines some of the issues that may emerge from the recommendations of the Smith Commission on the devolution and administration of social security. It begins with a general observation on the changing nature of the devolution settlement, the scope of the recommendations on welfare devolution and flexibility, and the challenges of increased policy interdependence.

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George Osborne made a typically robust defence of his economic record in the last Autumn Statement of this Parliament. Some of the measures he announced may well pay electoral dividends. Although the amounts involved are relatively small, the reduction of Air Passenger Duty for children and the revision of stamp duty in England will no doubt shore up support in the Conservative heartlands.

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Smith Poll: Holyrood Should Control Tax & Welfare - Report & Press Release

A poll probing attitudes to the Smith Commission and its terms of reference has found that 63% of Scots support the full devolution of both taxes and welfare benefits, including unemployment benefit[i]. There were also significant majorities for the devolution of pensions (58%), energy policy (57%) and environmental legislation (62%)[ii]. The Scottish Parliament retained sizeable  majority support for control in all policy areas except immigration, defence and foreign affairs.

The devolution of welfare provision has featured large in the public debate leading up to the publication of the Smith Commission's report. Many in civic Scotland had pushed for a significant form of welfare devolution. They are likely to be disappointed says Nicola McEwen.

The recommendations of the Smith Commission represent a compromise which will please some and disappoint others. In welfare, in particular, there had been a strong push from civic Scotland for a more extensive form of welfare devolution than appears in the Commission’s Report.

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The Smith Commission seems set to include some welfare devolution in the Heads of Agreement to be announced on Thursday. But what does welfare devolution mean in practice? Professor Nicola McEwen argues that there are a variety of models of welfare devolution, each with different implications for the ability of the Scottish Parliament to redesign welfare and meet social and economic needs.

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