Transition to universal credit: Scotland
This page sets out legislation that is relevant to welfare reform and universal credit specifically relating to Scotland. Universal credit is currently rolling-out in Scotland as it is in England and Wales. The only differences in Scotland are in relation to payment flexibilities – you can find detail about how these payment flexibilities work in Scotland in our payment section.
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 broadly applies only to England, Wales and Scotland. There are a couple of exceptions to this set out in Section 149 Welfare Reform Act 2012:
- Sections 128 and 129 do not apply in Scotland (these relate to information sharing powers between the Secretary of State and the DPP.
- Sections 32, 33, 76, 92, 126(1) to (13), 127 (1) to (9) and Part 7 (Excluding Schedule 14) apply to Northern Ireland. Sections 126 and 127 are explained further on the primary legislation page.
The Scotland Act 2016 received Royal Assent on 24 March 2016. The Act sets out the powers that are being transferred to the Scottish Parliament or Scottish Ministers. Part 3 of the Act relates to welfare benefits with Sections 29 and 30 relating specifically to Universal Credit. There is also a power to create other new benefits under Section 28.
You can find the Bill as introduced, amendments, debate transcripts and explanatory notes on the Parliament UK website.
The first set of regulations, laid on 14 July 2016, set out the timetable for the transfer to Holyrood of a number of welfare powers, including the ability to:
- Create new benefits in devolved areas
- Top up reserved benefits (such Universal Credit, Tax Credits and Child Benefit)
- Make discretionary payments and assistance
- Change employment support
- Make changes to Universal Credit for the costs of rented accommodation
- Make changes to Universal Credit on the timing of payments and recipients
- Make discretionary housing payments
The majority of these powers transfer on 5 September 2016. Discretionary housing payments transfer on 1 April 2017.
In April 2017, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions wrote to the Scottish Social Security Committee concerning the transfer of powers. The letter confirmed that:
- All of the new welfare powers have now been transferred from the UK Government to the Scottish Parliament.
- The UK Government are awaiting Scottish Government plans for the implementation of these powers and services in Scotland and once that information is available will work with Scottish officials to develop plans for implementation.
- At the request of Scottish Ministers, the Regulations deliver a split competence approach. The legislative competence transfers by May 2017, enabling the Scottish Parliament to legislate on matters covered by the exceptions to the Scotland Act 1998 that are contained in Sections 22 and 23 Scotland Act 2016.
- The Scottish Government have indicated that they intend to introduce a Social Security Bill into the Scottish Parliament in June 2017.
- Executive competence will remain with the UK Ministers until the Scottish Government are ready to deliver each benefit and at the latest until 31 March 2020 at which point the Scottish Government will take on responsibility and accountability for existing devolved benefits.
- During the transitional period of split competence, the UK Government retain executive competence for delivery and accountability of existing benefits. Funding will also remain with DWP until the point the Scottish Government take executive competence.
- The regulations allow for competence to pass to Scottish Government earlier if they are in a position to deliver new benefits prior to 2020.
The full text of the letter is available on the Scottish Parliament website.
Since then, the following regulations have been published:
- Scotland Act 2016 (Transitional) Regulations 2017 (SI 444/2017)
- Scotland Act 1998 (Agency Arrangements) (Specification) Order 2018 (SI 626/2018)
which implement these commitments. SI 626/2018 sets out the functions that will be exercisable by Scottish Ministers under Section 22 of the Scotland Act as soon as executive competence transfers from UK Ministers to Scottish Ministers at the end of the specified period.
The Bill was introduced by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, Angela Constance MSP on 20 June 2017.
The Bill set out an over-arching legislative framework for the administration of social security in Scotland. It was brought forward as a result of measures following changes to the devolution settlement enacted in the Scotland Act 2016. These measures give the Scottish Parliament legislative competence over disability, industrial injuries and carer's benefits, benefits for maternity, funeral and heating expenses and Discretionary Housing Payments. They also provide for the ability to top up benefits which remain reserved to the UK Parliament and allow new benefits to be created in certain areas.
As a result, eleven existing social security benefits will become a devolved responsibility. They are:
- Disability Living Allowance
- Personal Independence Payment
- Attendance Allowance
- Severe Disablement Allowance and Industrial Injuries Scheme
- Carer's Allowance
- Sure Start Maternity Grants
- Funeral Payments
- Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments
- Discretionary Housing Payments
All documents associated with the passing of the Act can be found on the Scottish Parliament website. The Act can be found using the link below:
- Scotland Act 2016 (Commencement order 1) Regulations 2016 (SI.No.759/2016)
- Scotland Act 2016 (Commencement order 2) Regulations 2016 (SI.No.1161/2016)
- Welfare Reform (Consequential Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 (SI.No.182/2017)
- Universal Credit (Claims and Payments) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 (SI.No.227/2017)
- Universal Credit (Claims and Payments) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2017 (SSI.No.436/2017)
- Scotland Act 2016 (Transitional) Regulations 2017 (SI.No.444/2017)
- Scotland Act 1998 (Agency Arrangements) (Specification) Order 2018 (SI.No.626/2018)
Last reviewed/updated 23 July 2018