The Expert Working Group on Welfare, set up by the Scottish Government to review the implications of independence on welfare administration, has reported. The Group recommends a transitional period of joint administration. In a nutshell, more of the UK system is administered in Scotland than benefits for Scotland are administered in England; it follows that the UK government cannot practically withhold cooperation. While that’s true, the most significant obstacle to independent administration would be that the contribution records are held in England; without the records, the current pensions scheme could not be maintained.
However, I’m not convinced in any case that a commitment to maintain benefits as they are is a good idea, for reasons I’ve outlined in this blog – that arrangement would pickle the current system and make it difficult to reform anything. As there is shortly going to be a flat-rate pension in any case, it should not be difficult in practice to move away from contribution-based entitlements – provided the money is available to buy out existing entitlements.