Group to study how welfare system would work in independent Scotland

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Welfare system: The new group includes people involved in public sector delivery, social policy, accountancy and economics.

The potential structure of a welfare system in an independent Scotland is to be considered by a group set up by the SNP administration.

Its members will look at benefit payments and make recommendations about how the regime can reflect "Scottish values", Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

"The announcement of the expert group is the first step on the journey towards creating a welfare system which will support the economy and society of an independent Scotland," she said.

"The group brings together a wide range of interests and, importantly, people who will provide a meaningful perspective on Scottish Government plans for our nation's welfare system following a successful independence vote.

"A fairer welfare system for Scotland can only be achieved with independence and control over all welfare policies so that we can devise policies for the benefit of the Scottish people, that reflect Scottish values."

Labour MP Margaret Curran, the shadow Scottish secretary, said the country is trapped between two governments with the wrong priorities.

"A UK Government that cuts tax credits for working families and a Scottish Government that's prepared to launch another talking shop instead of a real plan to get people back to work now," she said.

"It's also stark that at a time when cuts to child benefit and tax credits are hitting women particularly hard, this Scottish Government panel doesn't include a single woman.

"Today we see the SNP kick another difficult decision down the road. The Scottish Government should be able to tell us now what their plans for welfare are.

"Labour has set out how we would ensure a fair welfare system backed up with a compulsory jobs guarantee that would make sure people who have been out of work for two years have to take a job or face losing their benefits."

The UK Government will cut support for families and low earners in Scotland by about £210m, on top of reductions already set out by the Department for Work and Pensions, said Ms Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish Government's push for independence.

The new group includes people involved in public sector delivery, social policy, accountancy and economics.

They are Darra Singh, a director with Ernst and Young; Martyn Evans, chief executive of the charitable organisation Carnegie Trust; Douglas Griffin, a former finance director at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde; and Professor Mike Brewer, a research fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, University of Essex.

The group is expected to prepare a report for SNP ministers by May.

The referendum on independence is due to be held in autumn 2014.

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