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One Department: Doing it differently

Think tank says Scottish Government should learn from Westminster’s mistakes and create a single department

Reform Scotland, the independent, non-party think tank, has called for the Scottish Government to merge Revenue Scotland and the proposed Scottish social security agency.

In its latest briefing, One Department: Doing it differently, Reform Scotland said that the confusion and inefficiency caused by both HMRC and the DWP having a role in benefits should lead the Scottish Government to the conclusion that Scotland should do it differently and create a single department.

At Westminster, welfare and tax are split between two departments, though there are overlaps, such as child benefit and tax credits, which are welfare benefits but are the responsibility of HMRC. This split in responsibilities damages transparency, openness and accountability, and means that recipients have to deal with two different departments to receive their entitlements.

Revenue Scotland will not actually be administering Income Tax in Scotland (that task will still be performed by HMRC), so as well as holding HMRC to account, Reform Scotland believes that Revenue Scotland could easily be expanded to take on welfare responsibilities to ensure a joined-up approach.

Commenting, Reform Scotland’s Research Director Alison Payne said:

“We know from bitter experience at Westminster that the administration of tax and benefits by both HMRC and the DWP is confusing, inefficient and frustrating for users.

“The Scottish Government has an opportunity to start from scratch and create a more efficient and user-friendly tax and welfare system. This is why Reform Scotland is urging the First Minister not to simply repeat the mistakes of Westminster by creating two separate departments, but to consider a fresh approach.

“Isn’t that what devolution is supposed to be about?

“It is also important that we create a system now which can easily adapt to increased responsibilities in future. We want to see the Scottish Government create a better, more coherent and transparent system.”

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