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Welfare

What will happen to the welfare system in an independent Scotland?

Governments of an independent Scotland will be able to use welfare powers to deliver a system that helps people into work and protects the vulnerable.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How will my benefits be paid in an independent Scotland?

Benefits to which people are entitled will continue to be paid in exactly the same way as they are now.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will happen to Universal Credit and the Personal Independence Payment introduced by the Westminster Government?

The current Scottish Government proposes that the further roll-out of Universal Credit and the Personal Independence Payment should be stopped. Following a vote for independence, we will ask Westminster to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit and the Personal Independence Payment in Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will I get the same benefits after independence?

Yes. We plan that, on independence, there will be a transitional period when the Scottish and Westminster Governments will share the administration and delivery of benefits and State Pensions. It is in both countries’ interests that this should happen.

Following independence, the immediate priorities will be to reverse the most damaging and counterproductive of the UK welfare changes. We propose to:

  • abolish the “bedroom tax” within the first year of the first independent Scottish Parliament

  • halt the further rollout of Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments in Scotland

  • ensure that benefits and tax credits increase in line with inflation to avoid the poorest families falling further into poverty

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will I still need to go to the Jobcentre?

Yes. Scotland will inherit the Jobcentre structure and its functions but the Scottish Government and Parliament will have powers to look at welfare to work programmes in a different way, enabling them to develop a new approach to supporting people based on joint rights and responsibilities and a culture of respect.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will I still get my benefits on the same day of the week?

Yes.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will I get the same amount of benefit?

On independence our proposals mean you will continue to receive benefit payments and tax credits in the same way as you do now. Becoming independent will not, in itself, change your entitlement. However, future Scottish governments can choose to do things differently from the rest of the UK. For example, this Government will stop the damaging changes to our welfare system being introduced by Westminster, including scrapping the “bedroom tax” and stopping the roll out of Universal Credit.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will I need to apply again?

No. We will make sure that independence does not disrupt benefits payments, and that existing claims will continue as now.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will I need to be assessed again?

No. Scotland becoming independent will not result in a need for reassessment.

We propose that, on independence and for the transitional period, the benefits system will continue to be administered in the same way as it is now. Once Scotland establishes its own distinct system, the Scottish Government will be able to review the application process we inherit.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

If I am from another country and move to Scotland, will I be entitled to benefits?

At the moment, the UK rules for benefits entitlement vary depending on which country you move from. These rules will continue to apply in an independent Scotland until such times as the Parliament of an independent Scotland decides to change them.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How will I apply for benefits if Scotland is independent?

On independence and for the transitional period, the Scottish Government proposes that the administration of the benefits system will continue to work in the same way as it does now. Governments in an independent Scotland will be able to review the application process we inherit.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will benefits change for disabled people?

We intend that people living in Scotland and in receipt of Disability Living Allowance will not be migrated to Personal Independence Payment.

We have also committed to abolishing the “bedroom tax”, saving 82,500 households in Scotland – including 63,500 households with disabilities and 15,500 households with children – an average of £50 per month.

In addition, this Government proposes to launch an urgent review of the conditionality and sanctions regime, and review the system of assessments for disability benefits. Then, as the new independent benefits system is developed, we will work with disabled people and others with an interest in how to improve things further.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will work be an important feature of welfare and benefits?

Yes. Where people can work they should work. Work is important for people’s health and wellbeing, as much as for their economic position. This Government is committed to seeing an independent Scotland improve support for people that are out of work and create a welfare to work plan that is based on an individual’s circumstances and on the support they need to move towards, and into, sustainable work.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will the forms be the same for new benefits applicants?

During the transitional period, the benefits forms will remain the same.

When Scotland has its own welfare system, the government in an independent Scotland will be able to review the application process to make it simpler.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

When will the benefits system change in an independent Scotland?

The first government of an independent Scotland can start to plan for major changes during the transitional period, with a view to implementing them after the transitional period ends, which this Scottish Government intends should be in 2018.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Why won’t Scotland run its own benefits system from the first day of independence?

We accept the Expert Working Group on Welfare’s recommendation that there should be a transitional period of shared administration for delivery of benefit payments. As highlighted by the Group, this offers the best arrangement in the short-term. It also ensures continuity of payments for millions of benefit recipients elsewhere in the UK whose applications and payments are currently processed in Scotland. However, it is our intention that such a system of shared administration will last only until 2018 and be organised in such a way that will:

  • allow the first government of an independent Scotland to introduce its priorities for change from 2016

  • allow that government also to begin work towards creating a welfare system that better reflects Scotland’s priorities and needs

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Can an independent Scotland afford its own welfare system?

Yes. Scotland spends proportionally less on welfare and State Pensions than the UK as a whole. Spending on social protection as a share of overall spending is estimated to have been lower in Scotland for each year of the past five years.

Scotland’s Balance Sheet demonstrates that social protection expenditure, which includes welfare payments and State Pensions, accounted for 14.4 per cent of our economic output (GDP) in Scotland compared to 15.9 per cent in the UK as a whole in 2011/12.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How long would the transition take to establish welfare administration in an independent Scotland?

It is our intention that a system of shared administration will last until 2018.

The Scottish Government understands people’s concerns about the changes Westminster is bringing in. That is why we propose to give Westminster immediate notice, after a vote for independence, that further roll-out of Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment should be stopped in Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will change in the first years of independence, during the transitional period?

During a transitional period, Scotland will start to develop a welfare system better suited to Scottish needs and priorities.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What would be different about the welfare system after the transition period?

The political parties will put forward their proposals for the people of Scotland to consider in the 2016 election. That means decisions on the future shape of our welfare state will be taken by the elected representatives of the people of Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Even if welfare is more affordable now, doesn’t Scotland’s ageing population mean that in the long run welfare will become unaffordable?

The longer-term demographic challenge of an ageing population affects every western country, including Scotland and the UK as a whole. The particular challenge Scotland faces is projected lower growth in our working-age population, although Scotland's total dependency ratio (working age population compared to pensioners and children) is projected to be more advantageous than the UK's for at least 15 years. The Government Economic Strategy sets out a target to match average European (EU-15) population growth over the period from 2007 to 2017, supported by increased healthy life expectancy in Scotland over this period. What is clear is that this challenge is best addressed in an independent Scotland. An independent Scotland can address population growth by creating new opportunities for young people to build their careers and families within Scotland, and through action to attract people to Scotland the right people with the right skills – either Scots who have moved away or new migrants.

These matters are currently reserved to Westminster, which has different priorities for the UK economy and migration, so without independence, Scotland will not have the mechanisms to address its projected demographic issues.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How will an independent Scotland afford higher levels of spending on disability-related benefits?

Scotland does spend proportionately more on disability-related benefits than the UK as a whole. But this needs to be set against other areas, such as housing benefit, where we spend less. Overall, welfare is more affordable in Scotland.

Scotland is the eighth wealthiest nation in the developed world in terms of GDP per head, which means we have the money we need to support our most vulnerable people. As an independent country, we will be able to choose how to spend our money, based on the needs and values of the Scottish people, not on choices made at Westminster. The current Scottish Government’s approach will continue to be that Scotland should prioritise spending on protecting vulnerable citizens over spending on policies that we do not agree with.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Scotland is the eighth wealthiest nation in the developed world in terms of GDP per head, which means we have the money we need to support our most vulnerable people. As an independent country, we will be able to choose how to spend our money, based on th

Yes. Asylum seekers and immigrants will have access to the welfare system. On independence, existing UK rules will apply. With Scotland continuing as a member of the European Union, the rules on free movement of labour within Europe will also still apply.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will happen to the “bedroom tax” in an independent Scotland?

Our proposals include a commitment to abolish the “bedroom tax” if elected as the government of an independent Scotland.

This will happen within a year of the first election to the Parliament of an independent Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Would the welfare system in an independent Scotland tackle poverty?

Yes. We can only deal with an issue as complex as poverty with access to the full range of powers available to an independent country. Future Scottish governments can choose to do things differently from the UK.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Pensions

State Pensions

Can an independent Scotland afford the State Pension?

Yes. Scotland is in a strong position to afford a high quality pensions system. Scotland is already better able to afford the current levels of social protection spending (which includes pensions) than the UK as a whole, on the basis of government revenue and share of GDP:

  • expenditure on social protection as a share of GDP has been lower in Scotland than in the UK in each of the past five years – in 2011/12, social protection expenditure accounted for 14.4 per cent of GDP in Scotland and 15.9 per cent in the UK

  • a smaller percentage of Scotland’s tax revenues are spent on social protection compared to the UK. Figures from 2011/12 show that 38 per cent of Scottish tax revenues were spent on social protection, compared with 42 per cent for the UK

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How would an independent Scotland manage State Pension responsibilities with an ageing population?

All western countries need to take account of ageing populations, which brings with it pension affordability issues. Addressing these issues in Scotland requires targeted action to improve growth, boost productivity, and in particular, to increase the working-age population as a share of overall population. An independent Scottish Government would be best placed to take such targeted action to meet Scotland’s specific circumstances.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will happen to my existing State Pension in an independent Scotland?

Under our proposals, pensions will continue to be paid in full and on time, as now. The current Scottish Government intends that with independence, Scotland will keep the best of the existing State Pensions system, making genuine improvements where necessary. Our approach if in government under independence will be as follows:

  • the Basic State Pension will be increased each year by the ‘triple-lock’ – average earnings, inflation, or 2.5 per cent – whichever of these is the highest. This protection will stay in place for at least the first term of an independent Scottish Parliament. Westminster has only committed to keeping the triple-lock until 2015.

  • Guarantee Credit, which provides pensioners with a minimum income guarantee will also be increased by the triple-lock, initially for the first term of an independent parliament. This provides extra protection for low-income pensioners in Scotland, compared to the rest of the UK.

  • Savings Credit will be retained for existing pensioners on low incomes as in the UK.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

I’ll be retiring after 2016. What will happen to my pension on independence?

All accrued pension rights will be protected when Scotland becomes independent. People reaching State Pension Age from 6 April 2016 will move to a new single-tier pension. This is being introduced across the UK countries. In addition, this Scottish Government proposes that in Scotland pensioners should benefit under independence from additional protection as follows:

  • the single-tier pension will be set at £160 per week. If the rate for the single-tier pension is higher in the rest of the UK at that point, the Scottish single-tier pension will match this figure

  • for the whole of the first term of an independent Scottish Parliament, the single-tier pension will be increased each year by the ‘triple-lock’ – that is the highest of average earnings, inflation, or 2.5 per cent. This guarantee is only in place in the rest of the UK until 2015. Guarantee Credit, which provides a minimum level of pension income, will also be increased by the triple-lock

  • in addition, Scottish single-tier pensioners on low incomes will still be able to benefit from Savings Credit, which is being abolished for new pensioners from 2016 in the rest of the UK

  • provision will also be maintained for those expecting to receive a State Pension based on their spouse’s contributions. This protection would be in place for 15 years after the introduction of the single-tier pension, unlike in the rest of the UK

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will pension rights already accrued be protected in an independent Scotland?

Yes. Accrued pension rights will be protected in an independent Scotland. Our plans are as follows:

  • for those people living and working in Scotland at the time of independence, the UK pension entitlement they have accrued prior to independence will become their Scottish State Pension entitlement

  • any pension entitlement accrued in Scotland after independence will also form part of that Scottish State Pension

  • on retirement, the Scottish State Pension will be paid by the Scottish Government

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

I’ve worked most of my life in England and have only moved to Scotland recently to retire. Does that affect who will pay my pension and how much I will get?

No, it will not affect how much you will get. If you are in receipt of a UK State Pension on independence and you are resident in Scotland, the responsibility for paying that pension and all associated payments will transfer to the Scottish Government.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

I’ve accrued some State Pension in England, and some overseas, but none in Scotland. I’m now living in Scotland. How will my State Pension entitlement be calculated and who will pay it?

It will not matter where in the UK you accrued your State Pension entitlement: if you are retired and are living in Scotland on independence, the Scottish Government will be responsible for paying that pension. The amount you are entitled to will not change because of independence.

In terms of State Pension accrued outside the UK, the Westminster Government is currently not responsible for these payments. The same will be true of the Scottish Government on independence. People living in Scotland will, as is the case now, have their international pensions paid either by the country concerned or by the International Pensions Centre.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

I live in Scotland but I work between Edinburgh and London for different employers. What will happen to the various State Pension pots I have accrued after independence?

All State Pension accrued up to the point of independence anywhere within the UK will count as your State Pension entitlement.

After independence, any pension entitlement gained by working in Scotland will accrue to your Scottish State Pension. Any pension entitlement from working in England, Wales or Northern Ireland will accrue to the UK State Pension and will be payable by the Westminster Government.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will it be difficult to transfer pensions to an independent Scotland?

The Scottish Government will work with the Westminster Government to ensure an orderly transition of responsibility for pensions to an independent Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How will responsibility for pensions transfer to an independent Scotland?

The Scottish Government supports the view of the Expert Working Group on Welfare that a ‘shared services agreement’ for the administration of benefit payments during a transition period will be in the best interests of both the UK and Scotland.

Both during a period of transition, and in the longer term, pension payments will be administered by existing offices in Dundee and Motherwell.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

State Pension Age

What will happen to the State Pension Age in an independent Scotland?

Under current Westminster Government plans, the State Pension Age is increasing to 67 for people aged between 44 and 53, over a two year period between 2026 and 2028. The Scottish Government is not persuaded that this increase is right for Scotland.

On average, Scots currently enjoy fewer years in retirement – and in receipt of State Pensions – than the UK average due to lower life expectancy. Life expectancy for both men and women in Scotland has consistently remained below the UK level, despite significant improvements over many years. In 2013, life expectancy at age 65 was 1.2 years higher in the UK than in Scotland for women; and 1.3 years higher for men.

This Scottish Government therefore reserves judgment on the Westminster Government’s timetable for the State Pension Age increase to 67. Independence is the only way to ensure that the future State Pension Age in Scotland is determined according to specific Scottish circumstances.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How will the decision on the State Pension Age for Scotland be taken?

We intend if in government, to appoint an Independent Commission on the State Pension Age within the first year of independence. The Commission will have a remit to investigate and make recommendations on the appropriate rate of increase of the State Pension Age, beyond 66, that would suit Scottish circumstances. The Commission will take into account life expectancy, fairness and affordability, including implications for increased public sector pension costs.

We envisage the Commission reporting to Parliament within the first two years of independence with a view to decisions being taken promptly thereafter. Prompt implementation will allow sufficient time for longer term financial planning.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Private Pensions

Will my private pension benefits be protected?

Yes. Your occupational or personal pension sets out your retirement benefits. The payment of the benefits you have built up in your existing pension will not be affected by the move to independence.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will the Scottish Government do to help people save for retirement?

We propose following independence to:

  • continue with the roll-out of automatic enrolment into a workplace pension

  • establish a Scottish Employment Savings Trust for people with low to middle earnings

  • launch a Financial Capability Strategy to help build people’s skills, knowledge and understanding about personal finance

  • work with the pensions industry in Scotland on the design of new pension products that will provide greater certainty to savers about the final value of their pensions

  • improve pension information, giving people personalised feedback on saving for their retirement

  • consider whether adjustments to tax relief arrangements would further incentivise saving

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will the Scottish Government improve information and advice on private pensions?

Yes. At present, information and advice on financial services and pensions is provided by a range of organisations, with the result that people are often confused about where they should look for advice. This Scottish Government is proposing a new model to improve the standard of advice for consumers by providing information and advice you can access in your local area.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will automatic enrolment of employees into a workplace pension continue?

Yes. Automatic enrolment into workplace pension schemes helps people to save for their retirement and the Scottish Government intends that this will continue.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will employees and employers continue to have access to the National Employment Savings Trust?

The Scottish Government will work with the Westminster Government to ensure that the benefits people have built up in the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) are accessible. This Government proposes that a Scottish equivalent of NEST should be established to help firms in Scotland enrol their employees.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will tax relief on private pensions and salary sacrifice continue in an independent Scotland?

Yes. The current arrangements will continue at the point of independence. Scotland will inherit the tax system and the prevailing UK rates and thresholds for all taxes including tax reliefs. Decisions on specific taxes – including tax rates, allowances and credits – will be made by the Parliament and Government of an independent Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will people with pensions in the rest of the UK be affected by exchange rate fluctuations if Scotland had a different currency?

No. With the pound Sterling as currency of an independent Scotland, pensions will be paid in pounds Sterling, as they are today.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will there be a Scottish Pensions Regulator?

Yes. This Scottish Government proposes to establish a dedicated Scottish Pensions Regulator, to ensure the same level of protection for people’s pension savings as is currently provided, and to promote an effective pensions market.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will private pensions be protected in an independent Scotland?

Yes. We believe it is in the best interests of all parties for the current arrangements to continue – although we are also prepared to make specific arrangements for Scotland – to ensure that people will have the same level of protection as is currently provided by the UK Pension Protection Fund, the Financial Assistance Scheme and the Fraud Compensation Fund.

We will also ensure that arrangements for an effective compensation scheme are established, mirroring the level of protection provided in the UK Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will consumers in Scotland have access to a pensions ombudsman?

Yes. Two delivery models are being considered by the current Scottish Government. Either, a single Scottish Ombudsman Service – a one stop shop for consumers (including in relation to pensions) – will be established, or a specific Scottish Financial Services Ombudsman, with responsibility for handling complaints about pensions and financial services, will be established.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How will deficits in defined benefit private pension schemes be addressed in an independent Scotland?

Current deficits in defined benefit pension schemes have been caused by the financial management of these schemes within the UK. Many schemes are working to become fully funded and have recovery plans in place. These will continue after independence.

Our proposals for independence will deliver strong protection for people’s private pension savings and establish an effective regulator system which will set the parameters for such schemes to achieve a stable funding position.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will happen to existing UK-wide pension schemes?

Specific requirements apply under EU law to pension schemes that operate across different member states. However, the cross-border rules allow member states a degree of flexibility. Transitional arrangements were put in place by the Westminster Government and Ireland when these rules were introduced and we consider that it will be possible to agree transitional arrangements for existing UK-wide schemes. The Scottish Government is keen to start discussions with the Westminster Government and the European Commission as soon as possible, with a view to reaching agreement in the interests of employers and pension schemes across the UK.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Public Sector Pensions

Could an independent Scotland afford public sector pensions?

Yes. Scotland’s stewardship of public sector pensions can in some areas already be argued to have delivered more sustainable schemes than their counterparts in England and Wales.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will independence mean for the existing rights of members of affected public sector pension schemes?

In an independent Scotland, all public service pension rights and entitlements which have been accrued will continue to be fully protected and accessible – whether they have been accrued in schemes already executively devolved to Scotland or those currently reserved to Westminster. Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights means that pension rights are property rights under the Convention, which governments must respect.

There will be no difference to individual contribution rates or benefit levels as a result of independence.

On independence, the legislation and rules governing public sector pension schemes, whether reserved or already executively devolved to Scotland, will continue to apply (under the “continuity of law principle”). The arrangements for these public sector pension schemes will therefore continue to operate as at present, bridging the period before and after the date of Scotland’s independence.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Could an independent Scotland manage public sector pensions effectively?

Scotland already has the people and the infrastructure in place for delivering high quality public sector pensions. In particular, the Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) has been responsible for administering Scotland’s NHS and teachers’ pensions for over twenty years and the Scottish Government has recently confirmed that the Agency is to administer all police and fire-fighter pensions in Scotland from April 2015.

Alongside this delivery expertise, the SPPA is also responsible for developing policy for all of the main public sector pension schemes executively devolved to Scotland.

The SPPA’s mixture of multi-scheme policy and delivery responsibilities is unique in the public service pensions landscape and is a significant asset. No other body in the UK has such first-hand knowledge and experience of both designing and delivering public service pensions policy. This includes the development of policy for, and the management of, two major sets of reforms of public service pensions in the last ten years.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will independence mean for how pensions will be managed?

For scheme members and existing pensioners of Scotland’s schemes, there will be no change in pension arrangements following independence. If, for example, a former NHS Scotland employee has retired, begun to draw her pension, and moves to live in England, the Scottish NHS pension scheme will continue to pay that pension, as it does at present.

For pension schemes that are currently reserved, such as civil service, armed forces and judicial pensions, the Scottish Government will work with Westminster to ensure an orderly transition of pension responsibilities to an independent Scotland.

The Scottish Public Pensions Agency will form the basis for delivering the additional responsibilities for public sector pensions that will be required in an independent Scotland. During the transitional period, pensions will continue to be paid in full and on time and pensioners will continue to benefit from safeguards, including the governance provisions of the Public Service Pensions Act 2013 and the provisions of Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which means that pension rights are property rights under the Convention which governments must respect.

For current UK-wide public service pension schemes, the Scottish Government will take its fair share of liabilities based on meeting the pensions responsibilities of pensioners who live in Scotland.

On independence, these pension schemes will continue to operate as at present. Just as today, however, it would be open to future governments to suggest changes. Independence simply means that these future decisions will be taken in Scotland rather than by Westminster.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Health and Social Care

What will happen to the NHS in an independent Scotland?

The NHS is already the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. The process of becoming independent will not change the way you receive your health care. You’ll still be able to visit your GP and local hospital as now.

NHS Scotland already operates independently in Scotland. NHS Scotland has been the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament since devolution in 1999.

The Scottish Government’s vision for the NHS in Scotland is to maintain our publicly owned, publicly funded health service providing care free at the point of delivery.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will the NHS be safe from privatisation?

Yes. Scotland has taken a very different approach from that in England. The Scottish Government has categorically ruled out the disruptive and costly structural reforms happening in NHS England. Avoiding the privatisation of services seen south of the border has allowed us to focus on improving safety and quality of care.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will an independent Scotland maintain the current number of doctors and nurses in the NHS?

In Scotland’s NHS, staffing decisions are made by Health Boards in line with their own local needs and circumstances. This will continue to be the case on independence. Under the current Scottish Government, NHS staffing has increased by 5 per cent overall and by 1.5 per cent in the last year. There are now over 1,000 extra qualified nurses and midwives and over 1,500 more doctors working in our health service.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will be the impact of constitutional reform on funding for medical research in Scotland?

Medical research is a Scottish strength.

Scottish researchers win a disproportionate share of the Medical Research Council (MRC) and National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) funds for which researchers based in Scotland can apply. For example, in 2011/12, with a population share of 8.4 per cent, researchers in Scotland won 9.8 per cent of the total funds awarded by the MRC and won 14.6 per cent of the total funds awarded through the NIHR funding streams open to them.

There are clear benefits, for the whole medical research community in these islands, from Scotland remaining within a research funding system with the rest of the UK. An independent Scotland, contributing directly to the overall research council budget, will be in a strong position to influence research priority setting at a UK level.

Levels of public investment in university research will enable our researchers and universities to remain internationally competitive, with current levels of public investment in university research, through the Scottish Funding Council and Research Councils, at least maintained.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How will independence affect the length of NHS waiting lists in Scotland?

As NHS Scotland is already under the control of the Scottish Parliament, its values and priorities will continue on independence. However, with independence, the Scottish budget will no longer be constrained by decisions made at Westminster, and will therefore reflect Scottish priorities.

Our approach to transforming waiting times for patients is an example of how better results are achieved for the people of Scotland when decisions are made in Scotland. As part of the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011, the Scottish Government introduced the 12 week Treatment Time Guarantee for inpatients and day cases which enshrines in law a patient’s right to be treated within 12 weeks. By March 2013, 97.5 per cent of patients waited less than the 12 week standard for a first outpatient consultation. This compares with waits of six months in March 2007.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will an independent Scotland still have free prescriptions?

Yes. The move to independence will not change the benefits we currently enjoy. Decisions on things like free prescriptions will form part of the policies set out by parties in their manifestos for future Scottish parliamentary elections, with the political parties each offering their own approach, just as now. The current Scottish Government’s vision for the NHS in Scotland is a publicly funded health service providing care free at the point of delivery for all who need it. This includes free prescriptions.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will happen to free personal care in an independent Scotland?

We have no plans to change the successful policy of Free Personal and Nursing Care in an independent Scotland. This distinctively Scottish approach is an example of how decisions made in Scotland provide better outcomes for the people of Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will an independent Scotland have to put in place new arrangements for medical training and education?

No. Scotland already has five medical schools, which continue to attract high numbers of undergraduates from across Scotland and England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as students from overseas, who want to study medicine.

Medical education operates in a world-wide market, and Scotland continues to enjoy a well-earned reputation for providing trainee doctors with high quality training and development opportunities. Given these strengths, we see co-operation on medical training continuing on the same four-country basis as today.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will medical workforce representatives participate in NHS Scotland pay negotiation processes after independence?

Yes. Responsibility for pay, terms and conditions of service for staff in NHS Scotland is already devolved.

The Scottish Government will ensure that they continue to have independent pay advice when setting pay for NHS Scotland doctors and dentists.

In recent years the Scottish Government has successfully developed a Scottish GP contract with the British Medical Association (BMA), and with independence we will continue to work with them to ensure that GP contracts are developed to meet the needs and circumstances of the people of Scotland.

Similarly, for hospital-based doctors and dentists, the Scottish Government will work with the BMA, and seek to co-operate with the Westminster Government where appropriate, to negotiate pay, terms and conditions. The funding and terms and conditions for General Dental Services, General Ophthalmic Services and Community Pharmacy are already devolved and fully negotiated in Scotland. These arrangements will also not change.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will Scotland continue to access services from NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence)?

In Scotland, NHS Healthcare Improvement Scotland provides a similar function to that provided by NICE in England and Wales. The Scottish Medicines Consortium already delivers the functions of NICE in Scotland in relation to access to new medicines and will continue to do so.

The Scottish Government currently purchases some services from NICE via a Service Level Agreement negotiated and operated by Healthcare Improvement Scotland. This arrangement too could continue in an independent Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How will an independent Scotland agree the price of medicines with the pharmaceutical industry?

The UK Department of Health currently agrees the pricing of medicines on a UK-wide basis given that this is currently a reserved area. Negotiations on new pricing arrangements from 1 January 2014 have been agreed between the Department of Health and the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). The agreement will run for a five year period in line with previous agreements.

The UK Department of Health currently agrees the pricing of medicines on a UK-wide basis given that this is currently a reserved area. Negotiations on new pricing arrangements from 1 January 2014 have been agreed between the Department of Health and the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). The agreement will run for a five year period in line with previous agreements.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will happen to blood donor services in an independent Scotland?

Scotland already has a fully independent blood donor service. NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) has in place a reciprocal agreement with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) and the other UK Blood Services to provide mutual assistance in the event of a blood shortage or unplanned event that affects their ability to supply hospitals. Following independence, this Government proposes to continue this reciprocal arrangement.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How will an independent Scotland organise organ donation and transplantation services?

Organ donation and transplant activity across the UK is co-ordinated by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) which operates in Scotland under a contractual arrangement with the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government contributes to the running costs of NHSBT and the organisation is accountable to Scottish Ministers for the organ donation and transplantation activities it undertakes in Scotland.

Donations and transplantations are organised jointly across the UK as it is in the best interests of patients to ensure that organs have the best match to recipients. We will be able to continue these arrangements following independence, in much the same way that the Health Service Executive of the Republic of Ireland currently works with NHSBT on transplants. This is the same as other parts of Europe where groups of countries work together across borders to achieve the best outcomes for their patients.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will I still be able to get specialist treatment in England?

Yes. The NHS in Scotland already co-operates with England, as well as with other countries for some services, to provide a range of specialised services not routinely available in Scotland. Access to a range of highly specialised services in England is managed and paid for by NHS National Services Scotland. Similarly, services currently offered in Scotland to patients from England will continue in an independent Scotland.

The Westminster and Scottish Governments also have arrangements in place with a number of other nations, including the Republic of Ireland, for reciprocal treatment. It will be in everyone’s interest for such arrangements and co-operation to continue in an independent Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will I be able to get NHS treatment if I am taken ill while in England?

Yes. Following independence, should someone resident in Scotland take ill while in England, Wales or Northern Ireland they will be treated by local health services according to their clinical need, just as they are now.

Equally, visitors to Scotland from elsewhere in the UK will be cared for and treated as they are under current arrangements. EU directives protect access to such treatment.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will the law on abortion be in an independent Scotland?

On the principle of continuation of existing law, current legislation on abortion will continue to apply within an independent Scotland until such times as that legislation is amended or repealed by the Parliament of an independent Scotland. There are no plans to change the current abortion time limit.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Housing and Regeneration

What will happen to Housing Benefit in an independent Scotland?

Housing Benefit in an independent Scotland will form part of a national social protection system. This Government’s proposal is to preserve Housing Benefit as a standalone benefit rather than include it as part of a single benefit payment.

Scotland’s Balance Sheet, published on 14 April 2013, shows that in 2011/12, social protection expenditure was equivalent to 14.4 per cent of economic output (GDP). This is lower than the equivalent UK figure of 15.9 per cent. In addition, spending on social protection in Scotland, as a share of the economy, has been lower than in the UK for the last five years, and is also lower than in the majority of other EU-15 countries.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will Scottish governments be able to do more to invest in affordable housing in an independent Scotland?

Yes. There will be opportunities for more investment in affordable housing in an independent Scotland. Full flexibility over Scotland’s budgets, only available through independence, will enable future Scottish governments to:

  • broaden action to make more affordable housing available to alleviate homelessness and tackle fuel poverty

  • take action to further improve the quality of housing, for example in the social rented sector

  • introduce different ways of supporting first time buyers

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Social Justice

What makes you think an independent Scotland will be a fairer country?

The sort of country we become will be up to the people of Scotland. Scotland has the wealth it needs to be a fairer country. We are one of the richest nations on the planet and could choose to use that wealth in a different way than Westminster. For example, we can choose to invest in childcare instead of spending money on defence. We can choose not to impose the “bedroom tax” and to have a more efficient tax system that ensures everyone pays up their fair share. With independence we can make different choices in line with our values and the views of the people of Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will independence mean Scotland will become a fairer society?

One of the main reasons for independence is to give Scotland the powers to make our society fairer. Scotland can make our wealth work better for the people living here and follow a different path from Westminster. The UK is now one of the ten least equal countries in the OECD. It ranks 28th out of 34 on a measure of overall inequality. OECD analysis shows that, since 1975, income inequality among working-age people has increased faster in the UK than in any other country in the organisation.

Academic analysis comparing the earnings of the worst off and those best off has found that the UK was the fourth most unequal nation amongst the world’s richest countries.

These outcomes are not the result of the policies of one government, but of almost 40 years of decisions at Westminster. With independence, Scotland can make decisions on tax, welfare and employment that help the poorest in our society, not make life worse for them.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How might a Scottish approach to tackling poverty be different?

This Government will not follow the same approach being adopted by Westminster which chooses to reduce support for one million Scottish households. We believe that Scotland is wealthy enough to make Scotland fairer, if we so choose. Key measures this Government proposes include:

  • introducing a universal early learning and childcare system for all children aged one to school entry

  • abolishing the “bedroom tax”

  • reducing heating bills

  • making improvements to the State Pension

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How could an independent Scotland avoid poverty arising, as well as redressing its effects?

The political make up of the Scottish Parliament is very different from that at Westminster, where policy choices over the past forty years have resulted in an overall increase in income inequality and, most recently, with the majority of people seeing their living standards squeezed. For example, there is a consensus in the Scottish Parliament around issues like the living wage, which means more people in Scotland will receive fair reward for their hard work and efforts.

It is unlikely that a Scottish Parliament with powers over welfare and taxation would have introduced the “bedroom tax” or reduced the personal allowance for pensioners. Scotland is already taking a different path to reducing poverty by addressing the underlying causes, helping people before they reach crisis point and helping people to help themselves.

The Scottish package of universal support, including free personal care, concessionary travel, free prescriptions and the Council Tax freeze, supports those on low incomes most.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Sport

Will Scotland have its own Olympics and Paralympics teams?

Yes. Scotland currently meets all of the qualifying requirements of the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees (IOC), other than being an independent state.

Arrangements will be put in place to ensure that Scottish athletes were able to compete in Rio 2016 by attending any necessary qualifying events in the lead up to Rio 2016. This work would be undertaken in parallel to the wider governance arrangements required for Olympic and Paralympic accreditation, establishing Scottish Olympic and Paralympic Committees and transferring functions currently undertaken at UK level.

It is only through independence that Scotland can have its own teams for the next Olympics and Paralympics.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will independence affect who can play for the Scottish rugby and football teams?

No. The criteria to play for Scotland at a sport are set by each world governing body (FIFA for football, IRB for rugby etc) and not by the Scottish or Westminster Governments.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will Scottish football teams still be able to compete in FIFA and UEFA competitions?

Yes. The Scottish Football Association (SFA) is already a member of FIFA, the world governing body for football. Likewise, the SFA is also an affiliate member of UEFA (Union of European Football Associations).

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will an independent Scotland still be able to host the Open Golf Tournament?

Yes. The Royal and Ancient are responsible for determining the venue of the Open. Scotland is the home of golf and Scottish golf clubs will continue to be part of the rota to host the Open championships. Both the 2015 and 2016 events are planned for Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How will an independent Scotland ensure that elite sport continues to secure appropriate levels of funding and facilities?

Scotland already has a number of world class competition and training facilities. Our national agency for sport (sportscotland) has responsibility for all aspects of community and performance sport up to Commonwealth Games level.

It will be for the Parliament of an independent Scotland to decide how best to generate and deploy this resource to the benefit of Scottish sport in future.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Would all Scottish athletes have to compete for Scotland or would they be free to represent the likes of “Team GB”?

Athletes are currently free to choose which country they represent providing they meet that country’s relevant qualifying criteria. Whilst the Scottish Government hopes that all athletes who are qualified to represent Scotland will do so, this is a personal decision.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.