Reform Scotland


Think tank says Holyrood should learn from Westminster’s mistakes

Ahead of today’s Stage 3 debate on the Social Security (Scotland) Bill, Reform Scotland, the independent, non-party think tank, has restated its call for the Scottish Government to have a single department managing both tax and social security in Scotland.
Reform Scotland has highlighted the confusion and inefficiency at the heart of the Westminster model, in which both HMRC and the DWP have a role in benefits. Welfare and tax are split between the 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.

Reform Scotland is aware that the Social Security Bill does not deal with the creation of the proposed new central executive agency, as this is a specific category of public body under the direct control of the Scottish Ministers.  However, it believes that the way social security is organised in Scotland is intrinsic to its success going forward and needs to be considered as part of this discussion.

The think tank has suggested that the Scottish Government should create a single department dealing with issues of tax and welfare, learning from the mistakes of Westminster and creating a better system for Scotland.
In practice, this may mean expanding the responsibilities of Revenue Scotland to include welfare.
Commenting, Reform Scotland’s Research Director Alison Payne said:
“We know that the administration of tax and benefits by both HMRC and the DWP is confusing, inefficient and frustrating for users.
“The Scottish Government has a chance to start from scratch and create a more efficient and user-friendly tax and welfare system.

“Devolution should never be about devolving powers for devolution’s sake, but about considering how things can be organised more effectively as well as offering an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the existing system.

“This is why Reform Scotland is urging Holyrood not to simply repeat the mistakes of Westminster by creating two separate departments, but to consider a fresh approach.
“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.
“Isn’t that what devolution is supposed to be about?”.