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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Tuesday, June 4, 2024


Social Security (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-13464, the name of Shirley-Anne Somerville, on the Social Security (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill at stage 1. I invite members who wish to participate in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons.


The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice (Shirley-Anne Somerville)

Although the chamber has cleared somewhat after my statement, I thank all the members who are staying and will contribute to the debate. This is an important, although technical, debate on the development of the Social Security (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill.

I am grateful for the productive contributions that have arisen from Parliament’s scrutiny, which resulted from the evidence that was given by knowledgeable and engaged stakeholders. That process added to the engagement that the Government had already undertaken in the co-facilitated events and the work with people on our experience panels and client panels.

The bill is part of the on-going development of a radically different social security system of which we can rightly be proud. That system is built from the ground up and delivers 14 benefits, seven of which are available only in Scotland. The bill maintains our person-centred and rights-based approach, in which people are treated with dignity, fairness and respect.

We recognise that it is important that we continuously seek to make improvements that build on the track record of successful delivery, as our experience grows. The bill will enhance the Scottish system of social security in line with our social security principles, which are set out in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. Those principles were supported by the entirety of the Scottish Parliament.

The principles that are particularly relevant to the bill are that

“opportunities are to be sought to continuously improve the Scottish social security system in ways which ... put the needs of those who require assistance first, and ... the Scottish social security system is to be efficient and deliver value for money.”

The bill will improve the experience of people who use Scotland’s social security system and ensure that it continues to deliver value for money. In particular, it will: introduce new rights for people; save money by increasing efficiency; improve scrutiny of social security; take powers to improve existing benefits; and introduce a power to create assistance for care-experienced people.

The bill represents an essential collective investment in a system from which we might all need help and which is expected to generate savings of about £3.5 billion each year.

I am grateful to the convener and all the members of the Social Justice and Social Security Committee for the work that the committee undertook in producing its stage 1 report. I am similarly grateful to the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee and the Finance and Public Administration Committee for their respective contributions.

I am pleased that the Social Justice and Social Security Committee agrees that work on the improvements that are intended from the bill has been

“undertaken in a way that takes account of the ethos of the 2018 Act”,

and that it

“recommends to the Parliament that the general principles of the Bill be agreed to.”

Parts of the bill are technical in nature. I am aware that the committee says in its report that it found it

“difficult at times to ensure that the social security principles are upheld throughout the Bill.”

I reassure the committee that the principles remain front and centre of the design of each provision in the bill. In the bill’s technical context, that has sometimes required that a careful balance be struck between principles, but I am confident that that balance has been achieved.

I am aware that particular concerns have been raised about the provisions in part 6 of the bill. I make it clear that nobody will lose their entitlement simply as a result of failing to provide information for an audit exercise. The provisions in the bill compare favourably with the approach that is taken elsewhere in the United Kingdom, where simply failing to respond to a request can result in benefits being terminated. The powers that are being taken through part 6 are required in order to identify trends in case loads to support effective audit processes, not to identify specific instances of benefit fraud. Any fraud that is detected during an audit exercise will be dealt with using existing tools and processes that have been agreed by Parliament.

The provisions contain a number of safeguards that are intended to avoid unnecessary intrusions. They take a power to make regulations that will exempt some groups entirely from participating. Those that are not exempted will have an opportunity to ask, when they have a good reason, to be withdrawn from the sample. Anyone who participates in the exercise will have the right to an advocate or a supporter, and the power to suspend an award of assistance will be exercised only as a last resort. An award will only ever be suspended when multiple attempts to obtain the information through a variety of communication channels have been unsuccessful.

I am, however, alive to the concerns that have been raised and we have taken concrete steps to address them in the bill. I note that the committee welcomes our undertaking to amend the bill at stage 2 to require that a public consultation be held in advance of making regulations under part 6, and to require that those regulations be sent to the Scottish Commission on Social Security for scrutiny. We are happy to continue our engagement with stakeholders to ensure that any processes that are designed to implement the provisions centre on the values of dignity, fairness and respect.

We have already acted to improve the bill in other ways, in the light of what we heard during stage 1 evidence. The Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee’s suggestions at stage 1 will shape the bill. Its invaluable technical expertise has informed the drafting, and we have committed to lodging a number of amendments at stage 2, as a result.

We have worked closely with the insurance industry on developing the provisions on compensation recovery, and we have agreed to clarify the limits of insurers’ liability under the provisions, in the light of that constructive engagement.

We have listened to stakeholders who have called for the introduction of late applications in exceptional circumstances, and we will lodge an amendment at stage 2 to ensure that Scottish social security remains as accessible as possible.

We have continued to work closely with the Scottish Commission on Social Security since the bill was introduced to ensure that we continue to make the most of its important contribution to the Scottish system of social security. We have agreed with its board to expand, by way of an amendment at stage 2, the range of regulations that will be subject to its formal scrutiny.

In closing, I suggest that support for the social security principles remains strong among members. I have spoken to the ways in which the Government has sought to work constructively to improve the legislation in the light of the valuable contributions that have been made so far, and I stand ready to continue that dialogue with members and our stakeholders as we move through the process.

I therefore urge members to support the bill so that this important set of improvements can be implemented and we can ensure that this vital public service remains robust in the future and play its part in the Government’s on-going missions to reduce child poverty and to ensure sustainable and excellent public services.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Social Security (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill.

I call Collette Stevenson to speak on behalf of the Social Justice and Social Security Committee.


Collette Stevenson (East Kilbride) (SNP)

On behalf of the Social Justice and Social Security Committee, I am pleased to contribute to the debate on the Social Security (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. I thank the individuals and organisations that responded to the committee’s call for views and attended meetings to inform our scrutiny.

The bill, which continues the journey to build, enhance and improve Scotland’s social security system, was introduced by the Government to make changes to the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018, which established the devolved social security system. As the cabinet secretary highlighted, the 2018 act includes the principles that

“opportunities are to be sought to continuously improve the Scottish social security system in ways which … put the needs of those who require assistance first”

and that

“the Scottish social security system is to be efficient and deliver value for money.”

The amendment bill follows on from that, aiming to enhance Scotland’s benefits system and improve the client experience but also to deliver increased efficiency and value for money. Overall, during our scrutiny, we heard that the amendments that are made by the bill take account of the ethos of the 2018 act.

Witnesses saw many of the proposed provisions as positive and they shared constructive ideas that would further improve the system. For example, they welcomed changes to the legal footing of the Scottish child payment that would make it a standalone benefit instead of one that is linked to reserved benefits. They also welcomed the introduction of a new category of assistance to help care-experienced people, with the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland—the ALLIANCE—saying that the proposed care leaver payment would be

“a good opportunity to provide further support to people who face quite unique challenges compared with others in society, and it shows the positive change that is possible with the devolution of social security powers”.—[Official Report, Social Justice and Social Security Committee, 14 March 2024; c 21.]

We heard calls for the Government to make good use of its regulation powers to maximise the impact of those benefits, including by widening the eligibility criteria for the Scottish child payment to include families in receipt of carer benefits and those with parents living apart; introducing measures to prevent parents from losing their entitlement as soon as they earn too much to receive universal credit; and extending the right to independent advocacy to people who are applying for care experience assistance. The committee will monitor the development of the benefits and we hope that the Scottish Government will consider those suggested improvements to maximise their impact.

Three key themes—accessibility, simplicity and consistency—were brought up throughout our scrutiny. Those themes arose most prominently when we reviewed the proposed provisions for people to challenge decisions about the level of benefits that they have been awarded. The committee heard that the redetermination and appeal journey is complex and can be daunting. The Royal National Institute of Blind People told us that claimants should not feel pressurised into accepting a new decision on their entitlement straight away but should be offered a cooling-off period to seek advice. On the requirement for a redetermination stage prior to an appeal, Citizens Advice Scotland highlighted the endless loop that some claimants face and asked for a streamlined process.

The committee believes that those witnesses made valid points, informed by the experience of the people they support and advise. I am pleased that the cabinet secretary wrote to the committee last week, confirming that the Scottish Government will embed client choice and flexibility in the redetermination process. The Scottish Government has confirmed that it will lodge amendments at stage 2 and the committee encourages the Government to consider our recommendations to improve the process for challenging decisions on entitlement.

Throughout our scrutiny, we have been mindful to keep at the forefront of our consideration the Scottish Government’s social security principles of fairness, dignity and respect. Of course, those different principles must be weighed against each other to reconcile upholding the needs of individuals with achieving efficiency and growth in the system, while ensuring value for money.

That is true when deciding whether an individual, or their representative, is responsible for a mistake when they receive an overpayment. It is important to ensure that liability is established to protect public money, but those processes must come with safeguards so that people who have neither claimed assistance in bad faith nor misused funds are treated fairly and compassionately.

We look forward to hearing how the processes that the Government proposes will work in practice to prevent often difficult financial circumstances from being further exacerbated. Part of that revolves around audit requirements, which my colleague John Mason will discuss further. Witnesses told us that there must be processes in place to prevent social security payments from being suspended if people fail to provide information for audit. The committee has some reservations about that area and we ask the Government to ensure that the provisions do not conflate error with fraud.

The cabinet secretary told us that the Government recognises the importance of continuous improvement, building on a track record of successful delivery. The committee welcomes that sentiment, and we look forward to scrutinising the bill further to ensure that fairness, dignity and respect are at its heart and that the rights of the most vulnerable people in Scotland are protected.

Social security is a human right that is crucial to tackle poverty and build a fairer society. The bill will continue that journey. The committee therefore recommends to the Parliament that the general principles of the Social Security (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill be agreed to.


Jeremy Balfour (Lothian) (Con)

I thank the clerks and everyone who gave evidence to the committee at stage 1, which has helped us to form our report. I confirm that members on the Conservative benches will vote in favour of the bill at stage 1.

Eight years ago, social security was devolved to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. It was a hopeful time and a fresh opportunity to create a uniquely Scottish system. The system would be well equipped to address the specific issues of poverty that we have in this country. It was a chance for decisions to be made at local level by local people.

Unfortunately, eight years on, we have not done what we had hoped to achieve. We have a system that, basically, is a carbon copy of the Department for Work and Pensions system in every way, other than in efficiency and price tag. Social Security Scotland has been administering a system that has slow processing times, a high level of complaints and a very high number of applications being denied. I think that members will agree that that does not show dignity, fairness and respect to those in Scotland who need our help.

Will Jeremy Balfour give way?

For Mr Mason, absolutely.

John Mason

I thank Jeremy Balfour for his generosity. Does he accept that we now spend about £1 billion more on social security than would be the case from direct consequentials? That says something positive about the Scottish system.

Jeremy Balfour

Under the system, we are giving a couple more benefits, but the process behind it is identical to that of Westminster.

The Government likes to hide behind the mantra of safe and secure transition. Opposition politicians have bought into that, the third sector has bought into it and those who are claiming benefits have bought into it. However, we are now at the point at which that excuse no longer flies. We have had almost a decade to make the transfers; now is the time for us to take responsibility and for the Government and the Parliament to share where they see social security going in the next decade.

I am pleased that we have an opportunity through the bill to make meaningful changes to social security in Scotland. I am glad that, as a committee, we have unanimously recommended the general principles of the bill. However, there are much-needed improvements that can and should be made during the parliamentary process. It is a technical bill, but technicalities affect people’s daily lives. I am pleased that the cabinet secretary has indicated in her speech that she is willing to co-operate to achieve changes to the bill.

I do not have time to talk to all the amendments that I think should be made to the bill, so I will give a few highlights.

As a Parliament, we should be demanding that all benefits in Scotland are inflation proofed. We should be ensuring that Social Security Scotland performs at a much higher level and that the taxpayer gets value for money. All of us in the chamber can agree that SCOSS plays an important role in the scrutiny of legislation; it should be given a greater role and, with that, greater responsibility. As we have already heard from the two previous speakers, we need to look at the audit process.

I am sure that committee and other members, including me, will want to lodge amendments.

Bob Doris (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)

The member spoke about all the benefits that are delivered in Scotland being inflation proofed every single year. How would Mr Balfour fund that if our budget, which comes from the UK to Scotland, is not inflation proofed, given that we are looking at a £1.2 billion deficit? I think that Mr Balfour has called in the committee for additional investment to be made in Scotland to benefit vulnerable people, compared with what we get from the UK Government.

Jeremy Balfour

As the member says almost every week in the committee, it is all about political choices. I think that this is a political choice that we, as a Parliament, should make. We should make sure that people in Scotland are getting inflation-proof benefits. That is a priority.

Will the member take an intervention?

I am afraid that I am running out of time.

There is a bit of time in hand this afternoon. Should the member wish to take the intervention, he can, but it is up to him.

You are too kind, Deputy Presiding Officer.

Shirley-Anne Somerville

I am grateful to the member for taking the intervention. I wonder whether he would support the DWP doing exactly the same. In that way, we could have parity between the systems, with everybody increasing the benefits. Otherwise, he is making a call on the Scottish Government that he is not willing to make on his own party.

Jeremy Balfour

I think that we have seen that the DWP has done that.

As I mentioned, the bill presents us with a welcome opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of the poorest in Scotland. To some, the exercise can seem tedious, technical and boring. On the contrary, however, the decisions that we make in the process can make a real difference to real people’s lives. They can speed up processing times, increase the accountability of Social Security Scotland and move us towards the system that was envisaged back in 2016—one that treats people with dignity, fairness and respect.

The bill is very important and we on the Conservative benches are ready and willing to work constructively with others in the Parliament to ensure that it can have the maximum possible impact on the lives of those who rely on social security. After all, it is the least we owe them.


Paul O’Kane (West Scotland) (Lab)

I am pleased to open the debate on behalf of Scottish Labour and to confirm that we will support the general principles of the bill at decision time.

It is important that we acknowledge at the outset the principles of the bill, which are to improve people’s experiences of Social Security Scotland, to ensure value for money in the system and to ensure that the system evolves and does not become stagnant. We welcome many of the actions in the bill, including those that will ensure that the Scottish child payment is on a statutory footing and those that develop the framework for new benefits such as care experience assistance. We will support changes to our social security system in Scotland that continue to support people to live in dignity and free from poverty, because that aspiration is shared across the Parliament.

It is no secret that I and my colleagues have often been persistent in our critique and in holding the Government to account for many of the challenges that have been experienced in the roll-out of social security in Scotland. It is five years since Social Security Scotland was created and there have been a number of issues, including overspends on information technology infrastructure, the unacceptably long processing times for claims for many benefit payments and the long waiting times for clients who have called Social Security Scotland. As we have recognised in the chamber, long waiting times have meant, tragically, that more than 100 people have died while waiting for their adult disability payment claims to be processed. They were denied the payments that they were entitled to.

It is clear to me that there are many lessons to be learned and many improvements that we can make. We will continue to scrutinise every detail and action of the Government and the relevant bodies in the devolved social security system as they continue to evolve and develop.

In the vein of being constructive in my criticism, and in the spirit of the partnership working that the cabinet secretary said in her opening speech that she aspires to, I also want to highlight the successes of Social Security Scotland. The Scottish child payment has been a welcome evolution in the landscape, and Labour members have been proud to support it from its inception and through its development. Recently, the Social Justice and Social Security Committee has been taking evidence on its impact, and I am pleased to see the qualitative reports on the impact that it is having on some families, while recognising that there are calls for caution on the quantitative analysis, with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and others pointing out that we still need more data. I hope that the Scottish Government has heard those calls for better data so that we can continue to scrutinise and make improvements in the system.

I also hope that, in her concluding remarks, the cabinet secretary will be able to say something about the improvements that we can make to the Scottish child payment. As I have said, we welcome its being put on a statutory footing, but it would be good to understand what further work the Government is doing as we move to put it on a statutory footing. That also goes for any potential new benefits, such as care experience assistance. We want to get a sense of where, potentially, the Government will consult in the future and what plans it has to develop that benefit.

On the other provisions in the bill—which is as imperfect as all bills are at stage 1—I know that the cabinet secretary will seek to work across parties to make improvements throughout stages 2 and 3. Indeed, the committee’s stage 1 report highlighted some of the concerns that we heard in evidence and some of the challenges that were put to the Government. We have already heard the cabinet secretary speak about section 6 of the bill and many of the challenges that were raised on how the audit process might affect more vulnerable individuals. It is welcome that the Government has taken cognisance of the evidence that was heard. As the bill progresses, we will continue to work to ensure that we improve those provisions.

We also heard about new regulations that are still not within the scope of scrutiny of the Scottish Commission on Social Security. That is of concern. We all know that SCOSS provides a vital body of expert scrutiny on the development and implementation of new payments and regulations, so it is important that we continue to empower it to scrutinise and to ensure that the right decisions are made for those who access social security payments.

Other changes to the bill will be needed. Many of our third sector and anti-poverty organisations have outlined those in the briefing material that they provided in advance of the debate. I know that the cabinet secretary and her officials also have thoughts on amendments that are required. It would be helpful to know the direction of travel and the areas of priority for the Government as soon as possible, so that we can work together.

Scottish Labour will engage with all ideas for the bill that can further enhance social security in Scotland, to ensure that it will live up to the promise of dignity, fairness and respect. I hope that the bill is a positive development that will move us in the right direction and ensure that our systems continue to bed in. Assuming that its general principles are agreed to at stage 1 this evening, I look forward to its development as it progresses.


Maggie Chapman (North East Scotland) (Green)

I thank everyone who has worked on the bill, in particular the Social Justice and Social Security Committee. I also thank the Child Poverty Action Group, the Poverty Alliance and the Law Society of Scotland for their briefings for the debate and for the ministerial statement earlier today.

The bill deals with a range of important issues and lays the ground for care experience assistance, including a care leaver payment, which I and other Scottish Greens very much welcome and hope will not be long delayed. We are supportive of the bill, although we have some remaining questions—in particular, on the provision of information for audit. I will return to that issue later. For now, I want to focus on what is, for us, one of the most significant and potentially transformative aspects of the bill: the provisions that relate to the Scottish child payment.

We are proud of the role that the Scottish Greens have played in the development of the Scottish child payment to what it is today, on both the level of the payment and the number of families who are able to receive it. We know that it is already making an immense difference to the lives of those families, as was recently detailed by academics and policy experts in their evidence to the Social Justice and Social Security Committee. If anyone still doubts the efficacy of the payment, I urge them to read the Official Reports of those meetings. As Professor Ruth Patrick pointed out, the system of cash payments not only reduces the stigma that is associated with other types of assistance; crucially, it recognises and values parents’ own expertise.

Sadly, in practice, the Scottish child payment is not operating as it was originally intended to operate—as an extra payment that allows parents to give their children something more than the bare essentials for survival. Instead, very often—too often—it has to meet those bare essentials, to mitigate the effects of other events and policies.

One such event was the pandemic and what Jack Evans of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation described as the erosion of financial security that that produced. However, far more devastating was the epidemic that came afterwards—the crisis of greed that translated into unaffordable prices for the basic costs of living.

That oppression still continues, because as Stephen Sinclair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission explained to the committee, although inflation as a whole is lower than it was, the rate for essentials such as food and fuel, which account for a higher proportion of spending for low-income families, is higher than the headline figure.

The third factor—and the most destructive of all—is the UK Government’s social security system. As Ruth Boyle of the Poverty Alliance explained, that system

“is pulling people into poverty”,


“90 per cent of people who are in receipt of universal credit ... going without essentials”.—[Official Report, Social Justice and Social Security Committee, 30 May 2024; c 10.]

Ruth Patrick spoke of the way in which the two-child cap represents

“a divorcing of the relationship between need and entitlement.”—[Official Report, Social Justice and Social Security Committee, 23 May 2024; c 13.]

That relationship is fundamental to the working of a decent and just society.

Professor Danny Dorling described the UK as

“appalling in comparison with every other country in Europe”.—[Official Report, Social Justice and Social Security Committee, 23 May 2024; c 8.]

Last year’s UNICEF Innocenti report found that the UK had the largest increase in poverty out of the 39 countries that it surveyed, and that the rate of child mortality—the grief of generations—is now once more rising in the UK.

We welcome the space that will be created by the bill to place the Scottish child payment on a new footing, which will potentially make it not only a top-up that is dependent on other entitlements, but a stand-alone payment. It could be made available to those who cannot receive it at present, including families in the asylum system and young people over 16. As the Poverty Alliance highlighted, it could also be a vital step towards the implementation of a minimum income guarantee and all that that means for dignity, financial security and wellbeing for everyone in Scotland. We welcome the bill as a step along that journey.


Bob Doris (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)

I am pleased to contribute to the stage 1 debate on the Social Security (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. As Deputy Convener of the Social Justice and Social Security Committee, I echo the thanks to all of those who supported us to gather evidence for our stage 1 report and to support the general principles of the legislation that is before us this afternoon. I echo the comments of our committee’s convener, Collette Stevenson.

The Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018, and the SNP Government has always sought to base social security in Scotland on dignity, fairness and respect—an endeavour that the whole Parliament can be proud of. That is absolutely true of one aspect of the bill, which sets up a legal framework to allow new benefits for care-experienced people and families with children. In particular, it will pave the way for the proposed care leaver payment.

However, I want to highlight the power in the bill to change the legislative footing of the Scottish child payment. The Scottish child payment is currently designed as a top-up for families with children who are on a qualifying UK benefit. For instance, it addresses the lack of adequate financial support for struggling families who are on universal credit from the UK Government. It does so without a two-child limit or a rape clause. We should be proud that this Scotland-only benefit is keeping 100,000 children out of poverty.

Paul O’Kane spoke about some of what I am about to speak about. We need to get better data on a lot of this. The Government should embrace that, because it will show a lot of good news for the Scottish Government. Our committee heard that there are lots of children who might not make it over the poverty line but whose families have been in deep and persistent poverty for generations and who can still see their lives transformed. That is the point that I was trying to make earlier to the cabinet secretary. It would be great to get some of that data.

The evidence base in support of the Scottish child payment is so strong that we should be evangelical about it to the rest of the UK. It is why academics such as Danny Dorling were keen to see a comparative study on approaches to child poverty in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. As the representative for Maryhill and Springburn, I want to see how the life experiences of young people in Maryhill compare with those of young people in Merseyside because of the existence of the Scottish child payment. That could make a compelling evidence base to persuade any incoming UK Government that it should do likewise.

Because of the direct link with UK benefits, there is a potential issue with the Scottish child payment. If a person who moved off universal credit had been claiming the Scottish child payment beforehand, they would lose all their entitlement to the latter. That represents what we might call a cliff-edge drop in income, which is why the stand-alone nature that the bill would create for the Scottish child payment is so important. If—and I stress the word “if”—resources were to allow it, we could introduce a benefits taper or run-on to support families in Scotland who move off UK benefits. That would require direct partnership working with the UK Government, but it could get many families into well-paid, meaningful employment in the longer term. The current legislative framework does not allow for that, so I welcome the changes contained in the bill.

If I have time, I will say a little about the bill’s provisions on changes to redeterminations and appeals. They include allowing requests for those procedures to be submitted after a year, in exceptional circumstances. Another example would allow individuals to withdraw their redetermination requests. The reason that I am putting only two changes on the record is that some of the most interesting evidence that the committee heard was about what is not in the bill. The examples that I have just read out might sound relatively technical, but we heard suggestions that included having a cooling-off period for the withdrawal of a redetermination or an appeal, which would be beneficial to the people I represent.

There was also an interesting discussion among various witnesses from third sector and voluntary organisations about whether we should remove the redetermination mechanism altogether and move straight to an appeals process. Some of them thought that the mechanism could be swifter and could avoid having a two-stage process, which might deter some people. However, others said that the appeals process put some of their clients off, so the redetermination process was incredibly important. The Scottish Government reflected that it could overburden the tribunal service.

I will finish on this point. The committee’s convener said that the Scottish Government is seeking to lodge amendments to offer clients choice within the redetermination process. However, our approach should be not so much about processes as about making those support people who are entitled to claim benefits in order to meet their needs. We have to get that right, and I believe that the bill does that very well.


Miles Briggs (Lothian) (Con)

I am pleased to take part in the debate. I pay tribute to and thank the organisations that provided helpful briefings ahead of this debate, as well as the committee’s clerks and all the witnesses who gave welcome evidence ahead of stage 1.

The bill represents an opportunity to take stock and improve people’s experience of Social Security Scotland by making what the cabinet secretary has described as technical changes. However, it is important to remember that those are changes that people have helped to shape.

The Scottish Conservatives welcome many aspects of the bill, but, as my colleague Jeremy Balfour stated, it does not provide a vision of how Social Security Scotland can and will change in the future. As the bill progresses through Parliament, we need to look at how we can do things differently in Scotland. Across the parties, that is what we all agreed to when powers to legislate for the benefits were transferred to the Scottish Parliament, but we have seen very little change.

In the limited time that I have available I will touch on a few areas in which I can see welcome progress, although the devil will be in the detail at stage 2. For example, the changes on appointees will be important. I wrote to the cabinet secretary about allowing parents and carers to become appointees for the purpose of claiming child disability payment. I wanted to see change in that area, so I welcome the fact that that idea will be implemented.

A number of members have touched on the framework for delivering the Promise as regards welfare proposals and changes. I welcome the proposed assistance for care-experienced people, but we need to see more detail of its scope. There is one aspect that the cabinet secretary could perhaps touch on in her closing remarks. For some time, I have been asking the Scottish Government about tenancy deposit schemes, which are meant to fall within the scope of the Promise. I have not had an answer from ministers, but I hope that provision for such schemes could be made in the bill, as they would otherwise seem to sit outwith its scope. I would be interested in finding out whether there is any information on what that would look like.

As other members have done, I very much welcome the changes that are proposed to childhood assistance, to position it as a stand-alone payment rather than a top-up benefit.

In conclusion, the Scottish Conservatives want to see a distinctly Scottish approach taken to social security. The SNP Government has received extensive devolved benefit powers, but it has consistently failed to maximise or change them. I hope that the bill will present an opportunity for it to do that, and that is why we will work constructively to lodge amendments to the bill.

For example, I would like to see carers allowance payments made for up to six months after a bereavement, to allow carers who are in full-time education to continue to receive the allowance. I think that there is cross-party support for that. Certainly, Ben Macpherson, when he was Minister for Social Security and Local Government, pointed to that as something that the Scottish Government wanted to deliver before the end of the current session of Parliament. I hope that we will see an amendment to the bill to bring that about.

Although these changes are welcome, it is important to remember that Social Security Scotland has been facing growing problems, including slow processing times. High numbers of complaints are now being recorded, and a larger proportion of applicants are now being denied benefits. We need to take stock of that and of where Social Security Scotland, as an institution, currently is.

Nevertheless, the Scottish Conservatives will support the bill at stage 1, to ensure that dealing with Social Security Scotland is a bit easier and that there is a framework to take forward the changes that we all want. I look forward to stages 2 and 3, when we can—I hope—get the bill to a place where we all want it to be.


Marie McNair (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)

I speak in the debate as a member of the Social Justice and Social Security Committee. I thank the committee clerks for their assistance with the production of our report.

The committee received very helpful evidence from across the third sector and from local authorities and those representing the insurance sector. I thank CPAG and the Poverty Alliance for their helpful briefings, in which they welcomed the bill and made suggestions for further consideration.

The Scottish Government has already made significant progress with the social security system by delivering 14 benefits that tackle poverty and reduce inequality. However, we can always make improvements, and that is what the bill aims to do. The bill’s main policy objective is to enhance the social security system in line with the principles that are laid out in the 2018 act. Those principles underpin our social security system, to ensure that it is based on fairness, dignity and respect. In particular, the principles require that

“opportunities are ... sought to continuously improve the Scottish social security system in ways”


“put the needs of those who require assistance first, and ... advance equality and non-discrimination”.

In addition,

“the Scottish social security system is to be efficient and deliver value for money.”

Throughout stage 1, I and the committee as a whole have kept those principles at the forefront of our minds in considering and reviewing the bill. It is welcome that, in general, witnesses agree that, overall, the bill aligns with those principles, with the exception of the provisions on information for audit. I welcome the cabinet secretary’s assurances on further work in that regard.

The bill has nine parts, the first eight of which are dealt with in the committee’s report. For the sake of time, I will touch on two important parts. On determinations and redeterminations, I have always been mindful of the fact that the benefits process can be confusing. The committee noted that there was scope to make

“changes ... which could help to streamline the redetermination and appeal processes for clients.”

The committee also noted that, by simplifying and streamlining the system, we can build on and better incorporate the principles, ensuring that it

“embodies fairness, dignity and respect, as well as ... providing”


“value for money.”

However, the committee asked that

“the Scottish Government ... consider ... suggestions made by witnesses for creating consistent deadlines for redeterminations, removing the need for an error to be identified before an appeal can be lapsed, providing a ‘cooling off’ period for withdrawing requests for redeterminations and appeals”


“removing the need for a redetermination stage after an appeal has lapsed”.

As a result of Covid-19, provision was introduced to allow for late applications. That is no longer needed, but it flagged important points around the need for greater flexibility to deal with late applications. The committee and I welcome the cabinet secretary’s plans to take forward investigations at stage 2 to extend the flexibility of the provision to accommodate late applications from claimants who face challenging situations. We would also appreciate the cabinet secretary’s consideration of whether further provisions for backdating could be looked into.

Overall, it is felt that the amendment has been undertaken in a way that takes account of the ethos of the 2018 act while considering developments in the social security system. It was, at times, hard to ensure that the social security principles were upheld, so the committee and I welcome further reassurance that the core principles of fairness, dignity and respect are at the heart of the provisions, including regarding information for audit.

I am glad that the committee supports the general principles of the bill, and I welcome it as a step forward in ensuring that our social security system meets our high standards and upholds our principles of fairness, dignity and respect.


Carol Mochan (South Scotland) (Lab)

I thank the committee, the clerks and witnesses for the stage 1 report, and I thank members for their contributions in the debate. I did not sit on the committee, so I have found this a very interesting debate. I know from my colleagues Paul O’Kane and Katy Clark that this was a technical and very detailed piece of work, but the way that it has to progress and many of the technicalities are very meaningful to our constituents on the ground and to the people who rely on social security.

We all know that social security provision is the cornerstone of a society that cares. Of real interest to me is that one in four children in Scotland currently grows up in poverty. We need solutions to ensure that children have a fair chance to live free from hardship and with opportunities. We need a good social security system to allow children and families to have an opportunity to flourish. If we can do that for children and families, the ripple will help people right across society. I hope—and I think that I have heard today—that all members agree that we may all rely on the welfare state at some point in our lives. That is an important contribution to the debate.

As someone who did not sit on the committee, it was worth my while to review the general aims of the bill. It will enhance the Scottish system of social security, including by improving the experience of people using the services that are provided by Social Security Scotland, delivering increased efficiency and value for money, implementing the findings of an independent review into the remit and operation of the Scottish Commission on Social Security and revoking the emergency provision from the 2018 act that was used at the height of Covid. Those are all absolutely essential in order for us to move forward with social security provision in Scotland.

The Scottish Government stated that the aim of the legislation is:

“To create efficiencies and enhance the administration of the Scottish social security system, with a focus on measures to improve the client experience and to deliver value for money.”

That is what members have discussed in the debate. As we heard from my colleague Paul O’Kane in his contribution, Scottish Labour broadly supports the aims of the bill, particularly the move to ensure that users of the service have a better experience and that the service is welcoming and is provided in a way that meets users’ needs. We know that, if we can support and help families to find ways out of poverty, and provide social security systems with a compassionate, dignified and person-centred approach, people will live in dignity and be free from poverty.

That is certainly reflected in the committee report, particularly in point 239, towards the end of the report. Many of the committee’s points demonstrate how changes to the system that initially appear to be straightforward could have unintended consequences for the people whom the system is there to serve. A couple of members mentioned that that has made it difficult to ensure that social security principles are upheld throughout the bill.

The committee looks forward to receiving further reassurances that fairness, dignity and respect are at the heart of the bill’s provisions. I know that the cabinet secretary mentioned that in her opening remarks.

We know that there are delays in the system. The Government has been hesitant to take on powers over the past few years, and some costs in setting up the provision of services rather than the actual provision for individual clients have spiralled. I would welcome some reflections on that from the cabinet secretary in her summing up.


Time is very short. I thank members for their contributions. In particular, I support making the child payment a permanent benefit, as members have spoken about.


John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

As other members have suggested, much of the bill is uncontentious and makes a lot of sense to all of us. For example, part 7 deals with compensation payments where there is an insurance receipt. Part of those should rightly be recovered by Social Security Scotland, just as happens with the DWP. That seems fine.

On the Scottish child payment, the committee is currently carrying out a review, and witnesses have been very positive about the impact that that payment has made. However, there seems to be a desire to break the link to UK benefits so that entitlement to the Scottish child payment could be more closely linked to need. The bill will make it possible for that to happen in the future.

From a financial perspective, there is expected to be a cost of some £7 million to £17 million in the first few years, but there are then expected to be savings because of compensation recovery.

I had slightly more concerns about part 6 of the bill, on audit—the convener of the committee referred to that. The proposed changes are coming about because Audit Scotland challenged Social Security Scotland to measure better the levels of error and fraud. That, in turn, would help to ensure that official statistics are reliable. That is certainly a fair expectation. However, we start to have problems when we jump from the big picture to individual cases. It all comes across as a bit harsh in comparison with the overall direction of Social Security Scotland, which emphasises dignity, fairness and respect.

In my thinking, audit or even estimating an overall figure of error or fraud at the national level should be all about the big-picture stuff and assessing how well Social Security Scotland has been doing. There might be a comparison with the audit of a company, in which the auditors might write to banks or other third parties to confirm balances at the year end. Audit is largely an administrative process that focuses on the organisation, and it would not be expected to negatively impact on clients or customers.

To go from that to removing social security payments from clients who do not respond seems very harsh. Those people would already have gone through the system in order to receive adult disability payment, the Scottish child payment or whatever. There would be no evidence that they had done something wrong or even that they had received the wrong payment by mistake, yet based purely on their refusal or inability to answer yet more questions—including ones that they have already answered—they could have their benefits stopped. Something feels wrong about that.

The next question is how we can improve that part of the bill. I accept that some sanctions need to be available if error or fraud is found to have occurred. I also accept that some safeguards are already in place—for example, with a right to advocacy. I also note the Government’s response to our stage 1 report. Some of that is reassuring—for example, individuals with particular vulnerabilities will never be asked to participate in the audit process. I also note the comparison with an inventory system in a retail environment that is aimed at verifying stock levels and not at catching shoplifters. That is a very good point. That is exactly the point that has caused me concern. Therefore, I think that we are in more agreement about the aims of all of this; it is a question of how we do it.

It seems to me that, if there are weaknesses in Social Security Scotland’s system of awarding payments in the first place, the answer is to improve that awarding system rather than to go back and ask the same people more questions. On the other hand, if someone’s circumstances have changed and they have not told Social Security Scotland about that, that is definitely more difficult to pick up. I am not sure whether that is really part of the audit process, but I accept that it is important and that we need to have something in the system to check on such cases.

Having said all of that, I am in full agreement that we should agree to the general principles of the bill, as the committee’s report says, and we should vote for it at stage 1. The developing Scottish social security system is an exciting part of the landscape of Scotland, and I hope that the fact that the budget in that area increased by some £1 billion for 2024-25 shows that the whole Parliament supports it.


We now move to closing speeches.


Maggie Chapman

I have been encouraged this afternoon by the range of important issues that have been discussed. I am particularly reassured to hear that our concerns about the audit provisions are shared and to hear about what steps might be taken to address those concerns. John Mason outlined those very clearly in his speech.

Westminster’s punitive sanctions culture has embedded a well-grounded fear of investigation, and we need not only to take a different path here but to actively resist and transform that culture. I am grateful to Bob Doris and Marie McNair for their comments about the importance of getting the redetermination process right. It must meet the needs of those who will rely on it to work for them.

I look forward to working with members across the Parliament on amendments to strengthen the bill to ensure that it meets the real needs of the people of Scotland. As I outlined in my opening speech, we are particularly keen for the Scottish child payment to be expanded in terms of eligibility and level, and we support the calls by the End Child Poverty coalition for an increase to £40 per week. We recognise that, as Dr Juliet Stone testified, the current level is not enough to mitigate the “devastating effect” of the two-child cap—a savage policy that, it seems, a substitution of Westminster Government will not be enough to change.

We have heard this afternoon, and in evidence brought to the Social Justice and Social Security Committee, that there are gaps in the data about the Scottish child payment, and we would be interested to know whether amendments to the bill might help to address some of those problems. Although uptake is generally very good, there are rural areas where that could be improved, including Aberdeenshire in the North East Scotland region.

Our vision for the Scottish child payment and for the wellbeing of families across Scotland has to be ambitious, generous and transformative. As the committee heard from Danny Dorling and others, it is not enough just to nudge children over an arbitrary poverty line. We need to improve the lives of families existing just above that line, too. Crucially, we must take families out of deep poverty.

Bob Doris

I am delighted that the member is following the work of the Social Justice and Social Security Committee so closely. Would the member accept that Danny Dorling was making the point that there will be lots of people who are being lifted out of deep and enduring poverty, albeit not above the poverty line, which is having a dramatic improvement in their lives, yet that has not been captured by the data?

Maggie Chapman

Yes, I accept that point. We need to recognise and acknowledge that, and we then need to think about how we go beyond that and address issues, such as the failure to improve the physical wellbeing of children who sit just above the poverty line, that have not been dealt with in the past 20 or 30 years.

Our vision for the Scottish child payment has to be ambitious, generous and transformative. We need to fulfil the statutory principles laid down in the 2018 act, but we must also go much further by making social security a means of co-production, liberation and real redistribution.

Danny Dorling told the committee that the UK’s

“economic inequality between families did not alter one iota in the years from 1997 to 2010.”—[Official Report, Social Justice and Social Security Committee, 23 May 2024; c 8.]

We have to do better than that, by addressing the causes of poverty and inequality, as well as their consequences. It is a question of justice, of human rights and of humanity, but it is also foundational for everything else that we aspire to do in this place—in this Parliament and beyond, as Carol Mochan has described. Whether it involves climate and environmental action, peace building, equality for the oppressed, growing a thriving economy that prioritises people over profit, achieving reductions in crime, especially violent crime, or reaching the sustainable development goals in Scotland and throughout the world, the success of all that work depends on today’s children growing up in good health and in good housing, happy, well educated and confident—children who are free from the trauma of poverty and all that follows in its wake. The bill starts us on that journey, and we have more to do.


Paul O’Kane

I want to take time to reflect on the debate that we have had this afternoon, which has helpfully shown the consensus on the bill, as well as pointed to some of the challenges that exist and the work that will need to be done at stage 2 and stage 3 to ensure that we have the best possible bill. The bill will amend the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018, and we need to take the opportunity to progress the shared ambition of treating people with dignity and respect.

Colleagues have recognised the technical nature of the bill. In evidence to the committee, we heard it reflected that people often found it difficult to engage with some of the bill’s principles, because of their technical nature. Collette Stevenson, the committee convener, clearly outlined that in her speech, helpfully covering what we heard in evidence and the areas in which people want further work to be done. She reflected the need for accessibility and consistency that we heard from a number of people, particularly those who have lived experience of the system, which has been useful in focusing our minds before we come to the later stages of the bill.

I take this opportunity to thank all those who contributed evidence during stage 1, particularly people who use the system. They all had something to contribute to our process, and I know that they will be keen for amendments to be lodged as the bill progresses.

A number of speakers have raised the importance of the statutory footing of the Scottish child payment and the framework that will be created for new benefits for care-experienced people, particularly care leavers. Maggie Chapman spoke about that in her opening contribution. It is important that people who are care experienced have their voices heard in relation to not just the framework but the processes that we will take forward in order to develop the benefits. That has been true of the Scottish child payment and it will be true of the work on childhood assistance.

It has been helpful for organisations such as the Child Poverty Action Group to provide briefings and give evidence on what more could be done to improve the Scottish child payment. Some of the arguments that Bob Doris prosecuted on issues such as tapering and avoiding cliff edges, and on what further work we can do to enhance the benefit, were well made and very much reflect what we heard in evidence.

CPAG’s suggestions in advance of stage 2 cover issues such as how we define a child who would be in receipt of payments and the backdating of payments. It is important that all parties look at those issues in some detail ahead of stage 2 and beyond.

It is important to reflect on some of the contributions that were made on determinations and redeterminations of assistance. Marie McNair brought to the fore some of the issues that we heard in committee. A number of organisations across Scotland have thoughts on how we might improve that process to ensure that everyone has their redetermination carried out in an appropriate and fair way.

We heard quite a number of important points about audit and about supporting vulnerable people to be protected and taken out of audit processes. The cabinet secretary might have more to say on that in her summing up.

As I have said already, Scottish Labour will support the bill at stage 1. We see this as an opportunity to push forward to ensure that fairness is at the heart of social security in Scotland. We look forward to the scrutiny that will come at stage 2 and stage 3 to ensure that we get the best possible bill.


Roz McCall (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I am happy to close the debate on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives. I add my thanks to those of pretty much every previous member in the debate to everyone who has participated in the process so far. As a member of the committee, I echo the committee convener’s comments regarding the valid points that many of the witnesses made. The evidence was robust and informative.

As has already been mentioned by the cabinet secretary and others, the bill is mainly a technical one, but we have an opportunity to look at how we can make social security in Scotland better. We should not shy away from in-depth scrutiny of it. We should look at our processes and structures and do what we can to improve them. I recognise the cabinet secretary’s positive engagement in that regard, and I thank her for her early response to the committee’s recommendations. I note the points that the cabinet secretary highlighted, and I am sure that the committee will discuss them at length as the bill continues through stages 2 and 3.

There will be little surprise in the chamber that I want to single out the responses on the proposals for payments for care-experienced people, which were mentioned by Paul O’Kane and Maggie Chapman. The responses to the public consultation that concluded in January are currently being independently analysed, and I look forward to additional information coming to the Parliament soon. Who Cares? Scotland currently receives funding for advocacy and support services, and it does a spectacular job in assisting thousands of care-experienced young people and school leavers every year. I look forward to advancing the issue in detail.

I will highlight a couple of other points—I would love to highlight more, but time is short. Paul O’Kane commented that 100 people have died before getting their adult disability payment, which starkly highlights why it is important that we make changes and continue to improve processes. I am glad that that was mentioned, because it should be highlighted.

It is also important to echo Bob Doris’s comments on the Scottish child payment and the calls for fuller data collection. Those calls were succinctly but forcefully made at committee, and more analysis of that is essential.

Bob Doris

I think that the motive behind some of the calls for additional data to be gathered was that some of the academics were quite hopeful that that evidence base would lead to future UK Governments studying it, analysing it and introducing a similar payment. Is it reasonable to say that?

I can give you the time back, Ms McCall.

Roz McCall

It is very reasonable for Governments to look at any analysis that is carried out, so I thank Bob Doris for that intervention.

I echo the comments that were made by my colleague and friend Jeremy Balfour about shaping social security in Scotland in the future. We should embrace that; we should not have any fear about setting out the shape of things to come.

As I have stated, the bill provides an opportunity to look at how we can make social security in Scotland better, and that must come from objectively looking at what is working well, what is going wrong and what must be adapted and changed. I applaud Social Security Scotland for its diligence and hard work, but it would be remiss of us not to recognise that its performance is not as perfect as the Scottish Government makes out. In just one year, the number of complaints has increased by an alarming 174 per cent. In the first half of 2023-24 alone, Social Security Scotland received 1,560 stage 1 complaints, which compares with 570 complaints during the same period in 2022-23. That is a sharp rise, and it clearly indicates that there are systemic issues that need attention, which is why it is important that we analyse such issues through the bill process.

Shirley-Anne Somerville

I hope that, at the same time, we will analyse the massive increase in the number of cases that Social Security Scotland was dealing with at the same time as it was taking on responsibility for adult disability payment, which is the largest benefit.

Roz McCall

I accept that there has been a rise in the number of cases, but we need to ensure that all systems are robust and can do the job that they need to do. That is why it is important to mention such issues as we go through the bill process.

We are constantly told that surveys show that satisfaction levels are in the high 90s, so it was interesting to hear charities raising concerns recently that not everyone who goes through the process is put forward to answer the survey; it is only those who are approved. I highlight that, if you poll only people who agree with you, you would expect to have a high positive rating.

Slow processing times and high volumes of complaints are not mere statistics. They represent the struggles and frustrations of individuals who are not receiving the support that they need when they need it. It is important to add that the Scottish Government’s choices will result in a forecasted £1.5 billion overspend above the block grant adjustment in 2028-29, so that only adds to the urgent need to address any inefficiencies in the process, in line with the ethos of the Scottish social security system.

The Scottish Conservatives will support the bill at stage 1, as it introduces necessary amendments. However, although the bill introduces several positive changes, including new benefits for children and care-experienced individuals, those measures alone are not enough. We need a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes of inefficiencies and ensures that the system is equipped to handle the needs of all applicants fairly and promptly.


Shirley-Anne Somerville

I welcome today’s debate and the suggestions from members from across the chamber. I have already met some of those members, including Jeremy Balfour and Maggie Chapman, and I believe that we are still trying to set up meetings with Paul O’Kane and others. I very much look forward to that.

A number of members, including in particular John Mason, have mentioned the audit process. I dealt with that in large part in my opening remarks, but I of course stand ready to meet Mr Mason and others to discuss the issue, particularly because I recognise that there are continuing on-going concerns. We have tried hard to strike a balance on the issue, but I am more than happy to work with others across the chamber to see what more can be done.

I want to push back a little on the narrative that some members are attempting to set about social security overall. It is important to have some context. Jeremy Balfour and others have suggested that the system is the same as the DWP system. I am not sure who Mr Balfour is meeting if he is getting that feedback. I recently met carers in Motherwell and parents in Grangemouth who talked about the real and genuine difference that they have felt under the system because the agency has taken away stress from them and they have reassurance through the support that they have been given.

I also point to the fact that Social Security Scotland is now administering 14 benefits, seven of which are available only in Scotland. We have £1.1 billion more expenditure on social security than we get from Westminster. Just under half of that—£0.5 billion—is for the Scottish child payment, and the rest goes on other benefits. That demonstrates that, even only in financial terms, the systems clearly cannot be the same, because we are investing £1.1 billion more. Just one small example is the carer support payment, for which we have increased eligibility to include those in full-time education.

I also point to the satisfaction rates for Social Security Scotland. Clients’ rating of their overall experience with the agency is at 92 per cent for disability benefits, which is much higher than the figure for the DWP. On the application process, 93 per cent of respondents said that the process was very good or good. On decisions, 92 per cent of respondents agreed that the decision on their application was explained clearly. We are making real change.

The costs are not spiralling. Rather than being criticised, the programme has, rightly, received a number of awards. Any changes to the timetable were undertaken because of Covid or the development of the Scottish child payment.

A number of members have mentioned the Scottish child payment. It was delivered in the way that it was for speed. From policy formation to implementation, it was introduced in 18 months, which is the fastest that any benefit has been delivered anywhere in the UK. We should rightly be proud of that delivery in Social Security Scotland. However, it is time to move on and to consider a different base for that payment. I look forward to working with members on their suggestions on what that might look like although, as Bob Doris rightly pointed out, that has to be in the context of the current financial reality.

Other members mentioned SCOSS. For example, Paul O’Kane talked about the vital scrutiny that SCOSS has undertaken, and I absolutely agree with him. The bill was based on an independent review but, as I said in my opening remarks, we are keen to empower SCOSS, as we all benefit from its deliberations and recommendations. That is why, as I said in my introductory remarks, we are happy to look at expanding, through amendments at stage 2, the types of regulations that go to SCOSS. I am happy to discuss with members what more we can do to give SCOSS the footing that it should have as an integral part of our system.

Bob Doris and others mentioned the proposals for a cooling-off period. That is one of the many technical parts of the bill. I am happy to discuss that with the member, but we do not feel that a cooling-off period is needed, simply because clients can already resubmit requests. However, if there are concerns, we are happy to discuss them and see whether anything can be done or whether further work needs to be done to reassure stakeholders about what is already in the system and their ability to take advantage of that. I use that as an example of what we can take forward.

Miles Briggs mentioned the tenancy deposit scheme. I offer up Mr McLennan to have a meeting on that issue. I have already asked him, and he would be delighted to take up the opportunity to discuss that issue with Mr Briggs.

The bill is a technical one, as many members mentioned, but there is a real opportunity to ensure that we embed the principles of fairness, dignity and respect in our social security system. I am proud of the system that we have in Scotland. I am not complacent about there being opportunities for improvement and things that we can do better. I hope to work with members across the chamber to take that forward, whether in the technicalities of the bill or in our policy discussions as we progress.