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Scotland gets welfare powers from Westminster

The Scotland Act 2016 (Commencement No 1) Regulations 2016 continues the United Kingdom’s devolution revolution, transferring more powers from Westminster to devolved responsibility in Holyrood

Ian   Holloway
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Ian   Holloway
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The Scotland Act 2016 (Commencement No 1) Regulations 2016 continues the United Kingdom’s devolution revolution, transferring more powers from Westminster to devolved responsibility in Holyrood.


From 5 September 2016, the regulations “commence” certain provisions contained in the Scotland Act 2016 under Part 3 “Welfare benefits and employment support”. This means that the Scottish government will be able to change or augment some UK-wide welfare system to better meet the needs of the Scottish people. Plus, it can legislate to create new welfare benefits, as long as these fall outside of the long list of items in the 2016 act that remain reserved for UK control in Westminster.


As far as payroll, HR and pensions are concerned, there is nothing that will affect the day-to-day processing and administration working of UK professionals. However, even though it does not directly affect employers, the devolution of more powers from Westminster matters for the employees and workers in Scotland. Perhaps the things of greatest interest will be the fact that the Scottish government can now:


• Create new benefits in devolved areas.
• Top up reserved benefits (such Universal Credit, Tax Credits and Child Benefit).
• Make discretionary payments and assistance.
• Change employment support.
• Make changes to Universal Credit for the costs of rented accommodation.
• Make changes to Universal Credit on the timing of payments and recipients.


The secretary of state for Scotland, David Mundell MP, said: “For the first time… the Scottish Parliament will be able to legislate to create entirely new benefits and also to make significant changes to UK benefits that people already receive. These are important new powers that will sit side-by-side with Holyrood’s new tax-raising powers.”


So, if it doesn’t affect employers and UK professionals directly, what’s the point of me relating the devolution of these powers? There are two reasons:


1. New and changed welfare payments may affect our employees. As employers, we need to be aware of this.

2. This is just another step on the devolution ladder. It shows how Westminster is relaxing some control, recognising that each of the countries that make up the UK are different and have different needs that are met best in the devolved nations themselves.


Of course, while Holyrood has these powers, it is up to them whether or not they choose to use them, though first minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated that she will. Look out for their “programme for government” on 6 September 2016.

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