Universal Credit proves we need full devolution of Social Security.

The pace at which the political debate moves in the UK means that it can be easy to forget why and how we managed to find ourselves in the political circumstance of today.

Back in 2015, you may remember the cross-party commission established to determine which future powers over would be delivered by the Scottish Parliament.

Stemming from the desire for political change felt throughout the 2014 referendum, each political party sent delegates to negotiate and eventually recommend what powers that should be devolved from the UK to Scotland.

The SNP were clear – we believed that for Scotland to be as prosperous as possible, Scotland’s Parliament had to have all of the economic and social levers available to it.

We wanted the power to give the Scottish Parliament the chance to chart a different course.

We believe that Scotland should have full control of the social security state, employment law, tax paying and avoidance powers as well as the ability spend the money we raised in Scotland, in Scotland.

However, the coalition made up of Labour Party, Tory and Lib Dem politicians scuppered our best efforts.

Their representations meant that the commission recommended some, but not enough, powers be transferred from the UK to Scotland.

That meant that instead of having full control of the social security state, we got 15 per cent of its spending power – and while this is of course welcome, it reserves many of the powers to create social mobility and lift people out of poverty to Westminster.

The most damning example of this is the accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit.

For a number of years, the pilot of Universal Credit has meant that eligible people have had to apply for Universal Credit instead of Job Seekers Allowance, Housing Benefit and four others.

The process involves a minimum – and deliberate – six week wait before the applicant will receive their first payment.

The process has been characterised by failure. People have been driven into spiralling debt, reliance on foodbanks and left without a roof over their head.

The pilot failed. Targets were missed across the board, and the people the system was designed to help are suffering as a result of its inherent problems.

An abject failure of this scale would make any other Government sit-up, listen and change tact – or, at the very least, halt the flawed roll-out until the problems are fixed.

But, as we have seen time and time again, the Tories have refused to listen. They pressed on despite all the evidence against them.

A few weeks ago South Lanarkshire moved from pilot to full service and over the next few years everyone who is claiming any eligible benefits will be moved onto Universal Credit.

That means that people will be left without any support from anywhere between six and 12 weeks.

One of the principles behind Universal Credit is to make the transition to work easier, and to make budgeting on a monthly salary the norm.

However, I have yet to hear of an employer making their staff wait for up to three months before they start paying a wage.

It would be ludicrous to ask anyone to work under those circumstances – just as it is ludicrous to expect people to survive on no income for weeks on end while waiting on a social security claim to process.

Fortunately, through the Smith Commission, the Scottish Government has some powers over Universal Credit.

They have the power to give people the choice of their housing entitlement to be paid direct to their landlord and to alter the cycle of payments.

On the same day as South Lanarkshire went “live” the Scottish Government immediately announced their flexibilities will be available.

People claiming Universal Credit in Scotland now have the choice of two-weekly instead of four-weekly payment cycles, and can opt their housing costs paid to their landlord.

This proves that where we have power, we will exercise it and makes the argument for Scotland having full control over the social security state overwhelming.