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The devolution of social security benefits in Scotland: the Smith Commission.

Spicker, Paul


Paul Spicker


The United Kingdom is a unitary state, and social security benefits are some of the most centralised services in it. The powers of the Scottish Parliament in relation to benefits have been heavily restricted, to the point where they have fewer formal powers than an English local authority. Despite that, the Scottish Government has sought to use the limited authority it does have to mitigate the effect of UK welfare reforms. Following the independence referendum campaign, and the commitment of all UK parties to devolve greater powers, various options for devolution have been discussed, including powers over particular benefits. There are financial and administrative constraints to overcome, and potential problems wherever benefits interact with each other. The Smith Commission has recommended limited devolution, including a range of benefits relating to disability and elements of housing support, along with a power to create new benefits. This has to be done within a firmly hierarchical structure of authority, and there is scope for conflict as the detailed terms are negotiated and clarified.


SPICKER, P. 2015. The devolution of social security benefits in Scotland: the Smith Commission. Journal of poverty and social justice [online], 23(1), pages 17-28. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 1, 2015
Online Publication Date Feb 1, 2015
Publication Date Feb 28, 2015
Deposit Date Sep 15, 2016
Publicly Available Date Sep 15, 2016
Journal Journal of poverty and social justice
Print ISSN 1759-8273
Electronic ISSN 1759-8281
Publisher Policy Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 1
Pages 17-28
Keywords Benefits; Devolution; Scotland
Public URL


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