This consultation marks another important step in our journey towards delivering a Scottish social security system in line with the vision and principles set out in A New Future for Social Security in Scotland. It also represents the next stage in our work to ensure that the people closest to, and most impacted by, the devolution of social security powers have the opportunity to make their views known.
Every day, I'm conscious that we are laying foundations for the future. What we're doing right now, by establishing a social security system that will deliver our vision - that social security is important to all of us and able to support each of us, when we need it - won't just be important to the 1.4 million people who currently receive support from the benefits which will be devolved to Scotland; it will be important to communities, families and people in Scotland for generations to come.
These are exciting times, presenting a real opportunity to make a lasting difference to the lives of people across Scotland. I am delighted to play my part in delivering the promises that were made before this year's Holyrood elections. We are making strides in our work to increase Carer's Allowance, to expand maternity grants into a new Best Start Grant, and to tackle funeral poverty. And, partly as a result of this consultation, I am confident there will be a social security bill, before the end of the first year of this new Parliament.
I believe there are two things we must get right, as we begin to build our new, Scottish social security system. First, we must start as we mean to go on, by putting our principles at the heart of all that we do. Second, we must get off on the right foot - by taking the time to ensure that we have the right systems and people and processes in place to ensure continuity, making absolutely certain that everyone who currently receives the benefits being devolved - especially our carers and our disabled people - has their benefit transferred safely across to the new system.
We must also remember that the UK Government will remain responsible for 85% of benefit spend in Scotland, including benefits for pensioners and those seeking employment. So, while the Scottish Government believes that Scotland's citizens would be best protected if social security was fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament, both we and the UK Government have a duty to work together to deliver in the best interests of the people of Scotland.
We will only get one chance to do things for the first time and I am clear that the first time we exercise our new devolved powers will set the standard for all that follows.
If this means taking a little longer to get things right, then that is a balance that may have to be struck. It's more important to ensure that no-one falls through the gaps and that everyone is paid the money they need, at the right amount and when they need it. The Scottish Government has a steep learning curve in front of us, when it comes to social security, but with the help of Scotland's community of advisers, practitioners, public service professionals, representative groups and users, then I am confident that we will meet the challenges ahead.
This consultation is not just a listening exercise. As well as the extensive programme of events we are planning during the summer and into the autumn, to talk about this consultation, there will be opportunities over the months to come for us to provide further updates on what we're doing and the progress we're making. There is an enormous amount of other work going on, for example, to assess the options for delivery of our Scottish social security system. So, we will use these events as well as all of our other channels, to update you as we go along.
In taking forward this consultation, we will be open and inclusive and will welcome the views of those who will be affected the most. We will implement these new powers carefully and thoughtfully, taking the views of experts, practitioners and users into account. My firm belief is, the more people that are involved, the better the final outcome will be - so I hope that, over the coming months, as many of you as possible will join in and give us the benefit of your insights, your experience and your views.
Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities
Email: Edward Orr, firstname.lastname@example.org