Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison has called for Holyrood’s opposition parties to back full devolution of powers over employment policies to Scotland.
But the bid to secure more powers to the Scottish Parliament has been branded a “predictable political fight” and the minister has been urged to focus on using the powers Scotland has already.
In a letter to party leaders, Robison argued that the Scottish Government needs “the full devolution of employment powers to the Scottish Parliament to enable us to make the changes required to transform workplaces and tackle poverty”.
She told them she plans to write to the UK Government requesting additional powers after a parliamentary debate on Tuesday about tackling poverty.
The letter adds: “Employment powers would allow us to make the policy changes needed to support people and their families and deliver upon our shared ambition for a fairer, greener and more prosperous Scotland.”
In response, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross suggested Ms Robison should be “embarrassed” to demand more devolution, given the government’s record with existing powers.
He wrote: “Your new role as Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice means you are responsible for introducing the 11 new benefit payments devolved by the UK Conservative Government through the 2016 Scotland Act.
“The SNP Government promised to set up those benefits by 2021. You have broken that promise.
“It will be 2024 before those powers are used for the first time – approaching a decade after they were devolved.
“If I was in your privileged position to deliver real change here right now, I would be embarrassed to pen a letter requesting more responsibility when your party and government have proven completely incapable of introducing new powers for Scotland.
“Instead of demanding something else to distract from your failure, I suggest you at least try to use the powers you already have first.”
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Employment powers and poverty are incredibly serious issues which should not be bandied around for press purposes by cabinet ministers.
“Instead of focusing on a national recovery, we’re seeing the minister pick a predictable political fight.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “How pathetically predictable that the SNP use the issue of poverty to advance their constitutional arguments.”