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Scottish ministers have today called on the UK Government to accelerate the devolution of new welfare powers for Scotland, recommended by the Smith Commission.

Speaking ahead of the meeting of the Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare in Edinburgh, Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said:

“It has been over a month since the Working Group met for the first time and weeks since the Smith Commission delivered its recommendations. Over that period of time there has been a frustrating lack of progress from the UK government in recognising that its current proposals do not meet Lord Smith’s recommendations.

“We want to see early progress on flexibilities around Universal Credit as well as assurances that the UK Government will deliver the Smith report in full.

“It’s really frustrating that the UK has refused to make early progress on those flexibilities, although these are technically feasible now. And they have refused to change their draft clauses which fall short of the Smith proposals.

“Just last week both the Welfare Reform Committee and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlighted the scale of the damage inflicted by Westminster’s austerity agenda on people across Scotland.

“With more powers in our own we hands we could build a system better suited to our needs. The Scottish Parliament is best placed to make decisions about welfare policies that affect the people of Scotland.”

Fair Work Secretary Roseanna Cunningham added: “This Government’s commitment to Fair Work means we believe people should be supported into work, instead of being punished for being unable to secure employment.

“The UK Government’s current conditionality and sanctions regime isn’t working and the UK Government needs to adopt a positive and proportionate approach to support people, rather than cutting their incomes and having to deal with misguided policies such as the ‘bedroom tax’.

“We await vital information on employment services, such as the Work Programme, to enable the Scottish Government to move forward quickly in re-designing this type of support for Scotland. We are determined to use these powers to deliver seamless, effective support in Scotland that helps unemployed people in Scotland into work and delivers sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

“As we move towards the UK pre-election period, we call upon the UK government to act swiftly on the Smith recommendations to ensure we can bring forward a Bill that is fit for purpose and allows us to take a new approach to tackling inequality.”