Welfare Key Plank Of Yes Campaign

The ability to run its own welfare system has been one of the Scottish Government's key arguments for independence.

t has pledged to reverse Westminster changes to the benefits system, including scrapping the so-called "bedroom tax'', halting the roll out of universal credit and personal independence payments, and restoring housing benefit as a separate payment.

The minimum wage would rise with inflation and a ''Scottish living wage'' - currently £7.45 an hour - would be promoted, its White Paper on independence says.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has frequently argued that a Yes vote would provide an opportunity to create a fairer system north of the border.

On pensions, the White Paper states that pensioners will receive their money as they already do, ''on time and in full''.

Planned reforms will be rolled out from 2016, including the introduction of the single-tier pension. A triple-lock guarantee would ensure state pensions rise be a minimum annual increase of 2.5%.

The single-tier pension would be £160 a week in 2016, which the paper states is £1.10 a week higher than the rate currently expected for the UK.

The UK Government has questioned an independent Scotland's ability to maintain levels of public spending, and says that its policies on pensions will lead to higher costs.

It says Scotland's larger proportion of pensioners relative to the UK would put more pressure on its finances.

Scottish Government plans to delay increasing the state pension age to 67 would cost around £6 billion between 2026-27 and 2035-36 in extra pension costs, the UK Government says.

It could also lead to lower Scottish GDP, as people leave the labour market earlier than they would otherwise have done, it says.

"Those changes, and policy commitments by the current Scottish Government, would mean that over the next 20 years, an independent Scotland's spending on pensioners would rise to around #1.4 billion higher per year in today's terms,'' its analysis paper on independence states.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has perhaps been the No campaign's most outspoken critic of the SNP administration's pensions policy.

Mr Brown says pensions would be more secure and cost less if Scotland remains in the union.

"It makes no sense either to break up the British system of pension payments or to set up a wholly new administrative system which the DWP costs at £1 billion in the first years,'' he has argued.

The NHS is already controlled by Scottish ministers and has diverged from policies south of the border, but the No campaign says Scotland's hospitals are threatened by the cuts needed to pay for independence.

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